Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that a former payroll clerk for the Jersey City Department of Recreation pleaded guilty today to stealing approximately $80,000 by fraudulently inflating payroll hours for certain relatives and associates.
Angela Rivera, 41, of Jersey City, N.J., who formerly was a payroll clerk and senior analyst for the Jersey City Department of Recreation, pleaded guilty to a charge of second-degree theft by unlawful taking before Superior Court Judge Vincent J. Militello in Hudson County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Rivera be sentenced to three years in state prison. She will be required to pay full restitution to the city and will be permanently barred from public employment. Sentencing for Rivera is scheduled for April 9.
From Dec. 31, 2016 through Feb. 23, 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.
Deputy Attorney General Samantha Keleher prosecuted the case and represented the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) in the plea proceedings. 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.
“As a payroll clerk, Rivera was trusted to maintain accurate employee records and ensure that city funds were properly spent, but instead she falsified records to steal tens of thousands of dollars,” said Attorney General Grewal. “This type of public corruption can be very costly to taxpayers, as this case demonstrates, and we’re determined to hold those who commit such crimes accountable.”
“The Office of Public Integrity and Accountability is working hard to deter this type of dishonest conduct and enforce a culture of integrity in government,” said OPIA Director Thomas Eicher. “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.”
Four relatives and associates of Rivera who allegedly took part in the scheme were previously charged in the investigation. The court today admitted the following four defendants into the Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program, subject to payment of full restitution. Each was charged by summons on Jan. 6, 2020 with theft by unlawful taking (3rd degree) for allegedly depositing paychecks into accounts they controlled that they knew reflected work hours that had been fraudulently inflated by Rivera.
Ashley Cuevas, 24, of Jersey City, N.J.
Alfred Coriano, 41, of Bayonne, N.J.
Gabriel Villanueva, 42, of Jersey City, N.J.
Carlos Huertas, 34, of Jersey City, N.J.
If those defendants successfully complete PTI, the charges against them will be dismissed.
Deputy Attorney General Keleher prosecuted the case for OPIA under the supervision of Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee and Counsel to the Director Anthony Picione.
Attorney General Grewal created the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability in September 2018 to combat corruption and strengthen public confidence in government institutions. In December 2019, the Attorney General issued a directive codifying OPIA and making it a permanent part of the Attorney General’s Office. That directive established the OPIA Corruption Bureau as the lead office within the Department of Law & Public Safety for the investigation and prosecution of state criminal violations involving corruption and abuse of public trust.