|TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that two employees of the North Bergen Department of Parks and Recreation have been indicted by a state grand jury on charges including official misconduct for allegedly submitting false timesheets to collect numerous hours of pay for times when they were not working for the department.
Abraham Garcia, 56, of North Bergen, and Walter Somick, 46, of Wayne, were charged in separate indictments on Friday, July 31. Each man was indicted on the following charges:
- second-degree official misconduct,
- third-degree theft by deception,
- third-degree tampering with public records, and
- fourth-degree falsifying records.
If convicted, they would be subject to a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison on the official misconduct charge, including a mandatory period of parole ineligibility of five years, and a sentence of three to five years in prison on the third-degree charges, including a mandatory period of parole ineligibility of two years on the tampering with public records charge. The two men were charged as the result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
“It’s shameful that taxpayers in North Bergen had to pay for municipal employees who allegedly collected substantial salaries by lying about their work hours while barely showing up for their jobs,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “This type of corruption is a costly betrayal of the public’s trust.”
“We’re committed to making strong use of New Jersey’s tough anti-corruption laws to deter this type of abuse,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “If convicted of official misconduct, these men would face minimum terms of five years in state prison without parole.”
Garcia is employed as supervisor of security by the North Bergen Board of Education, and he is an assistant football coach at North Bergen High School. Notwithstanding those jobs, he also is employed as a recreational aide by the North Bergen Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR). The state’s investigation revealed that the DPR paid Garcia at a rate of $1,038 every two weeks in 2014 and $1,094 every two weeks in 2015. Garcia consistently submitted timesheets indicating he worked 42 hours for the two-week pay period. It is alleged, however, that he falsified timesheets to indicate he worked for the DPR during hours when, in fact, he was home, running errands, socializing or doing other things unrelated to the DPR. Through surveillance and other means, detectives identified in excess of 130 hours when Garcia allegedly claimed to be working for the DPR, but was not working for the DPR.
Somick is a union electrician. Notwithstanding that employment, he also is employed as a recreational aide by the DPR. The state’s investigation revealed that the DPR paid Somick at a rate of $1,405 every two weeks in 2014 and $1,481 every two weeks in 2015. Somick submitted timesheets indicating that the number of hours he worked varied from one pay period to the next, but they reflected an average of approximately 60 hours of work every two weeks. It is alleged, however, that he falsified timesheets to indicate he worked for the DPR during hours when, in reality, he was at his home engaged in personal activities. Detectives identified in excess of 110 hours when Somick allegedly claimed to be working for the DPR, but was not working for the DPR.
Deputy Attorneys General Cynthia Vazquez, Victor R. Salgado and Julia Zukina are prosecuting the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Vazquez presented the indictment to the state grand jury. The lead investigators are Detective Garrett E. Brown and Investigator Joseph Salvatore, assisted by Detectives Lee Bailey, Matthew Burd, Kiersten Pentony and Thomas Page of the Corruption Bureau Central Squad, as well as Sgt. Patrick Kendig and Detective Joseph Saiia, under the supervision of Lt. Robert Stemmer and Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione, Bureau Chief.
The indictments were handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who assigned the Garcia indictment to Hudson County and the Somick indictment to Passaic County. The indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictments are posted with this press release at www.njpublicsafety.com.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free tip line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities confidentially. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.