HOWELL, N.J. (CBSNewYork) – A New Jersey man is fighting to clear his name after letters sent to his neighbors falsely claimed he was a sex offender, but police say it’s all a hoax.

“It was very upsetting that someone would maliciously attack me like that,” said Michael Stahnten, the target of an orchestrated attack on his character.

The letter, topped with the State of New Jersey seal, is designed to look like an official mailing from the Attorney General’s office, reports CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez.

“It’s disgusting that someone would stoop that low,” said Stahnten. “I pride myself for my reputation. I’ve never been convicted of any crime. I don’t even think I’ve ever got points ticket on my driver’s license.

“I don’t know who would do this,” he said. “Obviously somebody that dislikes me very much.”

The letter claims that it’s reaching out to Howell residents as part of Megan’s Law, which requires law enforcement to notify the community of known sex offenders who move in. It names Stahnten, his home address and his family business, Certified Auto Mall.

On Wednesday, school officials who received the mailing immediately contacted Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick.

“We knew right from the beginning that it was fake,” said Kudrick. “As amateur as we might see, someone may not, somebody else might not see it, and that’s where our concern comes in.”

“We went through all the proper channels with notifying the state to see if this in fact was possibly true, and it definitely wasn’t,” he said.

Police are working with U.S. Postal inspectors to figure out where the letter, postmarked in Trenton, came from, who sent it and why.

Stahnten, whose 20-year-old family-owned towing company is thriving, has some ideas.

“Anything is a possibility at this point,” he said. “Jealousy is a terrible thing, so it could be that.”

The 33-year-old, whose wife is expecting their first child in April, says he wants to move past this for the sake of his family.

To whoever sent this letter, he says “I hope you find some peace in this. You’ve turned my world upside down, but it won’t stop me or my family or a business from continuing. It’ll just actually strengthen our resolve.”

So far police have at least 20 of the fake letters in their possession, but many other recipients have notified them about more. They are asking anyone who receives one not to open it and turn it in to police.


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