|TRENTON –Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that the former head track and field coach for Essex County College was sentenced to prison today for stealing $150,000 by fraudulently taking advances for travel and event expenses and depositing them into his personal bank account.
Michael Smart, 62, of Roselle, N.J., was sentenced today to three years in state prison by Superior Court Judge William A. Daniel in Union County. He pleaded guilty on Dec. 9 to a charge of second-degree theft by unlawful taking. In pleading guilty, Smart admitted that he stole a total of approximately $150,000 from 2012 through 2015, while employed as the head track coach for Essex County College. Smart is permanently barred from public employment and must pay restitution as ordered by the court.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony J. Robinson prosecuted Smart and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
“The funds stolen by Smart were meant to pay for travel expenses and fees so his team members could represent their college at track and field events across the region,” said Attorney General Porrino. “For him to steal from that budget – which amounted to stealing from his athletes – was a terrible betrayal.”
“Smart was given a debit card for team expenses, but he used it like his own debit card, stealing thousands of dollars through ATM withdrawals,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “This prison sentence should deter others who might consider engaging in this type of embezzlement.”
Smart was charged in an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. The investigation began with a referral from the New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller, and the Essex County Office of Inspector General also assisted in the investigation. As the head track coach, Smart was given a debit/credit card on a college account for travel and event expenses incurred by the track and field program. The athletic department made funds available in the account for expenses like food, transportation and event entry fees so that coaches could withdraw money when their teams had events. After events, coaches were supposed to return any unused funds with an accounting of expenditures as well as receipts to document them. Smart withdrew approximately $150,000 in funds using the college debit card for which he provided no accounting or receipts.
Nearly all of the funds stolen by Smart were withdrawn at ATM machines and deposited into his personal bank accounts. Often he would withdraw the transactional maximum of $700 several times per day. On multiple occasions, Smart either inflated the costs of an event or requested money for events that the track team did not attend. Other times he requested between $1,000 and $1,500 for entry fees for events, when the hosting schools, in fact, either did not charge entry fees or charged less than half the amount taken by Smart.
Attorney General Porrino commended Deputy Attorney General Robinson and the detectives in the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau North Squad who conducted the investigation. Attorney General Porrino also thanked the New Jersey Office of the State Comptroller and the Essex County Office of Inspector General for their valuable assistance.
Attorney General Porrino and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to confidentially report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. The public also can log on to the Division’s web page at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.
Defense Attorney: Joseph Rotella, Esq., of Newark.
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