The Star-Ledger (Newark, New Jersey)
Doctor indicted on drug charges
2 allegedly dumped marijuana on tracks
By Ralph R. Ortega
March 13, 2008
A psychiatrist and another man, both accused of dumping marijuana along railroad tracks in Hunterdon County, are facing 20 years in state prison if convicted on drug charges filed against them in an indictment handed up last week in Flemington.
Ira Morganstern, 65, of Bethlehem Township and David J. Fencik, 30, who had lived at Morganstern’s home on Morning Star Lane, were indicted by a grand jury March 6, according to court papers filed at the Hunterdon County Courthouse.
Morganstern and Fencik were both charged on a single count of first-degree maintaining or operating a controlled dangerous substance facility after State Police said they linked the two men to an undisclosed number of marijuana plants found Sept. 18 along railroad tracks near the Morganstern’s home.
A tipster contacted authorities after claiming to have witnessed Morganstern and Fencik dumping the plants along the tracks, according to State Police.
Morganstern said yesterday that he was unaware the indictment had been handed up.
“I haven’t had a chance to talk to my attorney,” said Morganstern, who declined further comment.
The attorney, Sharon Ransavage, also a former Hunterdon County prosecutor, said she, too, had been unaware of the indictment, and was stunned by the severity of the charges.
“This first degree is quite shocking,” she said, insisting her client was maintaining his innocence.
The indictment also charges Morganstern and Fencik with second-degree possession of marijuana with intent to distribute, and fourth-degree counts of marijuana possession and tampering with evidence, for their alleged attempt to discard the plants.
The indictment accuses both men of operating a facility used for manufacturing 5 pounds, or 10 plants, of marijuana.
Hunterdon County Public Defender Peter Abatemarco, who is representing Fencik, said his client claimed no knowledge of the marijuana.
“He doesn’t know anything about it,” said Abatemarco.
Abatemarco described Fencik as an acquaintance of Morganstern’s, who was living with the psychiatrist at the time of their arrest. Fencik, according to Abatemarco, recalled an almost surreal moment, when he suspected a helicopter flying over Morganstern’s home was doing surveillance, just moments before State Police came knocking on the door.
“He heard helicopters flying over, and later on the cops came,” said Abatemarco.
Fencik, whose last job was setting up computerized medical records, continues to live in the area, Abatemarco said.
Neighbors said they knew about the arrest, and did not find it surprising marijuana was being grown in their quiet rural section of Bethlehem Township.
“If you were going to take a chance, I guess it would be an okay place to try,” said Beth Fienemann, whose home is just down the dirt road that leads to Morganstern’s home.
He has been a registered psychiatrist in New Jersey since 1975, and has had no actions against him with the New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners, according to a board spokesman.
According to a profile posted on the New York Software Industry Association’s website, Morganstern graduated from Rutgers University and Tufts University Medical School, and did his residency at New York Medical College, Metropolitan Hospital.
The profile claims he has practiced psychiatry in central and western New Jersey for 30 years, and he is also a computer hobbyist, who has marketed a computer program he developed for creating psychiatric reports.
He and Fencik both contribute to “Icanotes,” described as an “electronic mental health software developer’s blog.” They each also have their own personal blogs. Fencik’s self-titled blog lists his residence in Montclair, and has only one posting on computer-related issues.
Morganstern’s “Ira Explains,” includes his astrological sign, his favorite music and film selections, and has postings going back several years with comments on a variety of topics, including artificial intelligence, President Bush and the Iraq war.
Both men are scheduled to be arraigned before Judge Roger Mahon in Flemington on April 11.