FREEHOLD – A Sea Bright Police Officer has been arrested and charged with a series of crimes recently committed against an ex-girlfriend, Monmouth County Prosecutor Raymond S. Santiago announced Friday.
Erich A. Bennett, 46, a resident of Sea Bright, is charged with second-degree Pattern of Official Misconduct, two counts of second-degree Official Misconduct, two counts of third-degree Computer Theft, third-degree Criminal Mischief, third-degree Making Terroristic Threats, fourth-degree Cyber Harassment, fourth-degree Hindering Apprehension, fourth-degree Identity Theft, and fourth-degree Stalking.
An investigation by the MCPO Professional Responsibility & Bias Crime Bureau, assisted by local law-enforcement partner agencies, revealed the following facts:
Bennett and the victim, an adult female, were in a brief dating relationship that the victim ended in late November 2022. On Monday, December 5, 2022, Bennett showed up unannounced to the woman’s residence and threatened her with physical harm, prompting her to block him from contacting her electronically and to install security cameras on the exterior of her home.
Then, on Sunday, January 8, 2023, the victim began receiving harassing and threatening messages via social media from an online persona, which the investigation connected to Bennett. The next weekend, on Saturday, January 14, 2023, as she was leaving her home, the victim noticed that all four tires on her vehicle had been slashed. She further noticed over the weekend that the side of her vehicle had been keyed, a flagpole had been torn off the front of her house, and her Ring doorbell camera and two additional security cameras had been removed from her residence. The investigation placed Bennett in the area of the victim’s residence at the suspected time of the vandalism.
The investigation further revealed that from October 2022 through January 2023, Bennett had accessed law-enforcement databases on more than 30 occasions for non-law-enforcement purposes, specifically to access personal identifying information of the victim and multiple individuals with whom she is associated.
Bennett was arrested without incident on Wednesday, January 25, 2023, and lodged in the Monmouth County Correctional Institution (MCCI) pending a detention hearing to take place in Monmouth County Superior Court. The Prosecutor’s Office has filed a motion to keep him detained pending the resolution of the criminal case against him. The detention hearing has been tentatively scheduled for Monday, February 6, 2023.
Bennett is currently suspended without pay from his job as a Sea Bright Police Officer.
“The facts of this case highlight a pattern of disturbing behavior,” Prosecutor Santiago said. “When a law-enforcement officer so egregiously harms a member of the very public they are sworn to protect and serve, it necessitates a swift and diligent investigation and apprehension.”
“The Sea Bright Police Department, from the onset of the investigation, cooperated fully with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office and supports their actions,” Sea Bright Police Chief Brett M. Friedman added. “We acknowledge that when incidents such as this occur, the trust bestowed to us by our residents and governing body may be called into question, but know that the Sea Bright Police Department is dedicated to providing the highest level of service to all we are called to serve.”
Anyone who has information about Bennett’s activities is being asked to contact MCPO Detective Ryan Mahony at 800-533-7443.
This case is being prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Melanie Falco, Director of the MCPO Professional Responsibility & Bias Crime Bureau. Bennett is being represented by Mitchell J. Ansell, Esq., with an office in Ocean Township.
Convictions on second-degree criminal charges can be punishable by up to 10 years in state prison.
Despite these charges, every defendant is presumed innocent, unless and until found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, following a trial at which the defendant has all of the trial rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and State law.