NJCU responds to ex-production manager pleading guilty to embezzling $87,587

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A former production manager for the Music, Dance, and Theater Department at New Jersey City University (NJCU) pleaded guilty to embezzling $87,587 in box office receipts from university theatricals, Acting Attorney General John Hoffman announced. 

Photo Courtesy of Attorney General's Office

By Katherine Guest/Hudson County View

Kathleen Peet, 37, of Rochelle Park, pleaded guilty to second-degree larceny by unlawful taking before Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez in Hudson County Superior Court on Tuesday, authorities said.

From 2004 through 2013, Peet admitted to embezzling $87,587 during her employment as production manager of the Music, Dance, and Theater Department. The plea agreement says Peet will serve three years in state prison, officials said.

Additionally, Peet will be permanently disbarred from working in the public sector, and must pay full compensation.

As of this writing, the university has received $34,000, but she still owes NJCU a repayment of $53,587. Peet’s sentencing is scheduled on Jan. 23, 2015.

“The box office receipts for the university’s music, dance and theater performances should have been a point of pride for Peet as production manager, and she should have carefully guarded them for the sake of the students in her department,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman in a prepared statement.

“Instead, she betrayed those students by selfishly stealing what they earned for the university through their talent and hard work.”

As production manager, Peet was responsible for the box office receipts earned during the performances at the Margaret Williams Theater. Peet had full access and control over the gained funds before depositing it to the Bursar’s office in Hepburn Hall, located at 2039 John F. Kennedy Boulevard, in Jersey City.

After an internal audit revealed approximately $60,000 in missing revenue from 2008 through 2013, Peet became the prime suspect, court documents show.

Without salary, Peet was suspended on October 2013 which led to her resignation a month later.

After stringent investigation passed from the university to the Division of Criminal Justice, additional thefts prior to 2008 were uncovered.

Daniel P. Elwell, the NJCU Vice President for University Advancement, gave Hudson County View a detailed timeline of Peet’s investigation from the university’s perspective.

“In 2013 an internal audit discovered a discrepancy between cash receipts and deposits from box office of our music, dance and theatre dept.,” Elwell said in an email.

“The audit revealed that Kathleen Peet (formerly Kathleen Sarmiento) who was then the production manager and responsible for the box office, had embezzled a considerable sum of money. Ms. Peet confessed to the crime, was suspended without pay in October 2013 and resigned the following month. The university referred the matter to the Division of Criminal Justice for further investigation.”

“Since this issue, NJCU has instituted many control measures to mitigate risk and stem further criminal acts.  In the past year and a half, we have made the following changes:

  • Institutionalized (internal) financial audit measures in additional to external audit controls.
  • Instituted three-way reconciliation system to collect, measure, and report on all fiscal matters, including box office receipts.
  • Cash collection and depositing system changed.  All collections are deposited immediately following performances.  Cash is not to be held more than overnight.
  • NJCU has broadened its payment acceptance offerings and now offers prepayment and credit card options, thus reducing cash payments.”

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