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Gun stockpile in hospital closet leads to $63K in fines from NJ health dept.

A health care worker exits the emergency room at Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus, New Jersey, on December 11, 2020.
Enlarge / A health care worker exits the emergency room at Hudson Regional Hospital in Secaucus, New Jersey, on December 11, 2020.

The New Jersey health department has fined a state hospital $63,000 after police discovered a stockpile of 39 firearms—including an illegal assault rifle with a high-capacity magazine—stashed in an unlocked hospital closet.

The firearm stockpile was found on the afternoon of July 18, when Secaucus police were called to the Hudson Regional Hospital over a bomb threat. The bomb threat was later determined to be a hoax, but while police conducted a safety sweep of the facility, bomb-sniffing dogs led officers to the weapons.

The stash included 11 handguns of various calibers, 27 rifles/shotguns, and a Kriss Vector .45 caliber semi-automatic rifle with a high-capacity magazine, which police determined to be an illegal assault rifle. Additionally, they found a 14-round high-capacity handgun magazine. (Images of the stockpile were caught on released body cam footage.)

Police determined that the small armory belonged to Reuven Alonalayoff, 46, of Elmwood Park, who was employed as the hospital’s marketing director at the time. Alonalayoff kept the weapons in an unlocked closet within his office.

On August 7, Secaucus police arrested Alonalayoff on state charges of one count of illegal possession of an assault firearm and two counts of illegal possession of a high-capacity magazine.

At the time, police declined to provide further details on why Alonalayoff brought the weapons to the hospital or what he might have planned to do with them. The police department noted that Alonalayoff was arrested at Newark Liberty International Airport with assistance from the United States Department of Homeland Security Investigations.

“The unsecured storage of a large cache of weaponry, especially in this location, certainly creates a risk to public safety,” Secaucus Police Chief Dennis Miller said at the time. “I commend the efforts and professionalism of all the police personnel involved in this investigation and am thankful this situation was resolved without anyone being harmed.”

Hospital failures

But the situation isn’t over for Hudson Regional Hospital. In a letter dated November 30, the New Jersey health department issued $63,000 in fines to the hospital for failing to immediately notify the department of the bomb threat, the discovery of the firearms, and for failing to implement policies and procedures to maintain a safe hospital environment.

In its investigation, the health department found that Alonalayoff had carried the firearms into the hospital “months prior” to their discovery. He managed to do so by carrying them in cases wrapped in plastic. Security staff failed to inspect or question Alonalayoff on the contents of the cases as he carried them in “because of familiarity” with him, the department found. Additionally, the department learned that an administrative assistant had at some point entered Alonalayoff’s office while he was away and saw the weapons in the closet because the closet door was left slightly ajar. However, she did not report the firearms to anyone, telling investigators that it was none of her business.

Though the health department states in its letter that Alonalayoff and the administrative assistant were the only ones aware of the guns, a police report obtained by Politico notes that the administrative assistant alleged that Hudson Regional Hospital owner and chair Yan Moshe was also aware of the guns.

Ultimately, the health department fined the hospital $1,000 per day for failing to implement safety measures, stretching from July 11—the last day Alonalayoff was in the office—to September 9, when the hospital finally “educated security staff on policies and procedures to maintain a safe hospital environment.” That totaled $61,000. The balance of the fine was for two $1,000 charges from failing to notify the department of both the bomb threat and the firearm discovery.

In a statement to NJBIZ, hospital spokesperson Ron Simoncini said, “Hudson Regional Hospital designed a corrective action plan in response to a notice from the Department of Health concerning an incident where firearms were discovered in the hospital. The DOH accepted our plan, which was implemented and is in force, preventing any such incidents from occurring in the future. The DOH noticed us of its penalties for the infraction, which we are remitting in due course.”

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