|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that an Irvington man pleaded guilty today in connection with a scheme in which fraudulent checks were used to steal $52,842 from the bank account of a not-for-profit organization, Programs for Parents, Inc., which receives state and federal funding to assist low-income parents with daycare costs.
Jeffrey J. Manning, 46, of Irvington, pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by deception before Superior Court Judge Sherry Hutchins-Henderson in Essex County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Manning be sentenced to three years in state prison. Manning is required to pay full restitution. A charge of theft by deception remains pending against a second man, Kevin S. Cropper, 29, of East Orange, who was charged with Manning in June 2013.
In pleading guilty, Manning admitted that he stole funds from Programs for Parents (PfP) using checks for a PfP checking account that were obtained without authorization and endorsed with a forged signature. In some instances, Manning made the checks payable to himself or another person and deposited or cashed them at banks. Other times, he wrote checks to purchase cell phones and accessories from T-Mobile or Verizon Wireless. Cropper allegedly participated with Manning in the same conduct. Manning is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 17.
Deputy Attorneys General Heather Taylor and Vincent J. Militello took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice. The defendants were charged in an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
“The thefts committed by this con artist were all the more egregious because he stole public funds from a community service organization that helps low-income families pay for daycare,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “There was no limit to his greed.”
“This case should serve notice to anyone who intends to steal public money: do so at the risk of ending up in state prison,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to target and prosecute thieves like this defendant to punish and deter white-collar crime.”
“Fueled by greed, these individuals allegedly stole public funds meant for hard-working parents who require assistance with child care costs,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “I want to commend the Official Corruption Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice for their hard work in investigating these crimes.”
Two women also were arrested on charges that they assisted Manning and Cropper in the scheme: LaToya Gordon, 25, of Newark, and Marion Smith, 26, of Newark. The charges against Gordon are pending. Smith waived indictment and was charged today by accusation with third-degree theft by deception. She was admitted into the Pre-Trial Intervention program. The state agreed not to oppose her application to PTI. As a condition of PTI, she will be jointly and severally liable with Manning for paying full restitution to the Program for Parents, and she will be permanently barred from public employment. If she successfully completes PTI, the charges against her will be dismissed.
The state’s investigation began in October 2011, when the director for PfP reported to police that 12 unauthorized checks totaling $52,842 had been written against the organization’s bank account between Oct. 2 and Oct. 19, 2011. It was discovered that two unauthorized orders had been placed with a check supplier for a total of 6,500 checks for the PfP checking account, using PfP’s account information. It is alleged that Smith obtained the information about PfP’s checking account while working as a bank teller, and supplied it to Cropper. The check orders were billed to PfP, but the checks were mailed to an address used by Manning in Elizabeth. PfP closed the bank account after discovering the unauthorized checks.
PfP, which has offices in Newark and Montclair, receives state and federal funds to provide subsidies to low-income working parents to assist them in paying daycare expenses for their children The maximum monthly payment is $573 for a child enrolled in daycare full time, and $286 for a child enrolled part time. PfP makes checks payable to daycare providers on a monthly basis. It does not make checks payable to parents.
Nine of the 12 unauthorized checks identified by PfP were made payable to several different individuals, including Manning and Gordon. Those checks were cashed or deposited in personal accounts at various banks. The remaining three checks were used by Manning – or, it is alleged, Cropper – for purchases from T-Mobile and Verizon. All of the fraudulent checks were endorsed with the name of a single PfP board member, whose signature was forged.
The investigation was led by Lt. Timothy J. Gallagher, Detective Sgt. Mario DiRienzo and Detective Sgt. Kenneth Lutz of the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau North Unit.