Two employees of the North Bergen Department of Parks and Recreation have been indicted by a state grand jury 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 charges of 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.
“We’re committed to making strong use of New Jersey’s tough anti-corruption laws to deter this type of abuse.” –Elie Honig
“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 New Jersey Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman. “This type of [alleged] 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.
The two men were charged as the result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. 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.
Township of North Bergen spokesman Philip Swibinski said, “Mr. Garcia and Mr. Somick were both suspended without pay when this matter was first brought to the township’s attention. They will continue to be suspended without pay until the legal process is concluded.”
The suspensions refer to the two men’s positions with the Parks and Recreation Department. Regarding Garcia’s position as director of security at North Bergen High School, Swibinski said, “As of [Aug. 4] he was suspended with pay from that position. The school district has a letter to the state Department of Education asking for guidance on how to proceed with his full time employment only. The allegations have nothing to do with his full time [school] employment.”
Earlier this year, two Department of Public Works supervisors in the town were found guilty of misconduct for allegedly performing personal errands and campaign work on city time. Their boss had pleaded guilty. – Art Schwartz