A former payroll clerk and senior analyst for the Jersey City Department of Recreation was sentenced to three years in state prison for inflating hours for her relatives, effectively stealing $80,553, Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Angela Rivera, 42, of Jersey City, was sentenced to three years in state prison by Hudson County Superior Court Judge Vincent J. Militello.
On January 27th, Rivera pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree theft by unlawful taking. She is required to pay full restitution to the city and is permanently barred from public employment.
From December 31st, 2016 through February 23rd, 2018, Rivera stole $80,553 by inflating payroll hours for certain former part-time and seasonal employees who are her relatives or personal associates.
She altered timekeeping spreadsheets for those employees, causing paychecks to be issued that reflected additional hours the employees did not actually work.
A number of those paychecks were deposited into Rivera’s personal account after she forged the employees’ signatures to endorse the checks over to her. Others were deposited into accounts controlled by the employees named on the checks.
Back in January 2020, the rec department suspended five employees without pay after they were charged by the AG’s office.
The other four employees, all part time or seasonal workers, are Alfred Coriano, Ashley N. Cuevas – Rivera’s daughter – Carlos Huertas and Gabriel Villanueva.
They were all charged by summons with third-degree theft by unlawful taking for allegedly depositing paychecks into accounts they controlled that they knew reflected work hours that had been fraudulently inflated by Rivera.
On January 27th, 2021, the court admitted them into the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program, subject to payment of full restitution. If those defendants successfully complete PTI, the charges against them will be dismissed.
Deputy Attorney General Samantha Keleher prosecuted the case and represented the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) at the sentencing hearing.
Rivera was charged in an investigation by attorneys and detectives in the OPIA Corruption Bureau, which began with a referral from the Jersey City Department of Recreation.
When the recreation department initially learned of the alleged misconduct, they completed an internal audit and referred the matter to OPIA.
“Government officials and employees have a duty to handle public funds with honesty and integrity. If they breach that duty, we will hold them accountable,” Platkin said in a statement.
“We urge anyone with information about official misconduct and abuse of public resources to contact us confidentially. We’ll pursue all leads to ensure that those responsible are investigated and prosecuted,” added OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher.
Deputy Attorney General Keleher prosecuted the case for the OPIA Corruption Bureau under the supervision of Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione.
OPIA has a toll-free Tipline 1-844-OPIA-TIPS for the public to report corruption.
The AG’s Office has an Anti-Corruption Reward Program that offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption. Information is posted at: http://nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward.html.