NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—On January 2, a former Fire Commissioner was found guilty of sex crimes in four different towns, including several against children, following a five-week trial in Superior Court.
Thomas Canales, a 39-year-old Franklin Township resident, was found guilty of seven criminal counts, according to a statement from the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office (MCPO).
Those charges included three counts of second-degree sexual assault, three counts of third-degree endangering the welfare of a child, and one count of fourth-degree sexual contact.
According to the jury, Canales exposed himself to an 11-year-old girl in North Brunswick on April 19, 2016, and then did the same to a seven-year-old girl in New Brunswick on July 3, 2016.
Then, on August 25, 2016, he improperly touched a 32-year-old woman at the playground of an Edison apartment complex.
Three days later, he improperly touched an 11-year-old girl in Highland Park, according to the verdict.
Canales had previously served as a volunteer with the East Franklin Fire Department and owned a security company known as “Scope It Out,” based in the Somerset section of Franklin Township.
He was also an elected Commissioner with the Township's Fire District #3 in 2011 and 2012. In 2015, he was tried in Somerset County Superior Court on charges of sexual assault against two girls, but the jury found him not guilty.
He remained a member of the East Franklin Fire Department throughout the trial and until he was arrested by Middlesex County authorities on September 1, 2017.
But Canales is now facing up to 31 and a half years in state prison on the charges. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 11 by Judge Colleen Flynn at the Middlesex County Superior Court in downtown New Brunswick.
The former firefighter will have to register as a sex offender and be placed on parole supervision for life upon his release from prison.
The MCPO statement credited Assistant Prosecutor Thomas Carver with making the case that Canales committed his crimes in Edison, Highland Park, New Brunswick, and North Brunswick.
Carver "presented evidence and testimony showing that on various dates between April 19, 2016 and August 28, 2016 Canales committed sexual offenses against four victims, three of whom were children," read the MCPO statement.
Charges of "computer theft" are still pending against Canales in Somerset County. According to prosecutors, "he installed a surveillance system in a client’s home and then watched activities in the home through his computer and cell phone."
The MCPO statement credited police work by Detective Bill Coleman of the New Brunswick Police Department, Detective Dominick DeCarlo of the Edison Police Department, Detective Sean McGraw of the Highland Park Police Department, Detective Michael Braun of the North Brunswick Police Department, and MCPO Detective Mark Morris.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate and a community organizer, and an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.