Platkin Announces Former Mayor of Wildwood Indicted on New Charges

Statehouse
Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) announced today that a state grand jury has returned a new indictment against former Wildwood Mayor Peter J. Byron, accusing him of abusing his official position to request a job from a city attorney, then failing to pay state taxes on his earnings from that position for years.

A new seven-count indictment was filed on April 16, 2024, against Byron, 68, of Wildwood, New Jersey, who resigned from office in September 2023. He has been accused of the following new offenses:

·    Official misconduct – 2nd degree

·    Tampering with public records – 3rd degree

·    Falsifying or tampering with records – 4th degree

·    Failure to pay tax – 3rd degree (two counts)

·    Filing a fraudulent return – 3rd degree (two counts).

According to the allegations in the indictment, Byron, who had been elected as a city commissioner before serving as mayor, used his official position as a commissioner to unlawfully pursue and obtain employment from an attorney who had a contract with the City of Wildwood and held official appointed positions with the City.

It is further alleged that Byron submitted required annual financial disclosure statements to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs in which he failed to properly identify the job with the attorney as a source of income in 2017 and 2018.

Additionally, the investigation revealed that Byron failed to pay required state income tax on income earned from New Jersey sources in 2017 and 2018. The investigation found Byron’s New Jersey income tax return falsely omitted required New Jersey-sourced income earned during those years.

“As alleged, the former mayor inappropriately used his power and influence for unlawful personal financial gain, betraying the public’s trust,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Elected officeholders are expected to serve the public, not use their authority to line their own pockets.”

“The former mayor had a clear conflict of interest in seeking and accepting this job, given his power over the city contracts and appointments of his employer,” said OPIA Executive Director Thomas J. Eicher. “Cashing in unlawfully on positions of power damages the public’s confidence in government, and this indictment should send a message that those who do so will be held accountable.”

Byron was previously indicted in a separate matter on state charges for allegedly fraudulently participating in the State Health Benefits Program. The investigation revealed that Byron and his codefendants in that matter were never eligible for benefits because they were never “full-time” employees as defined by state law, which requires elected officials to have work hours fixed at 35 or more hours per week to be eligible. It is alleged, however, that the defendants fraudulently enrolled in the SHBP and received publicly funded health benefits. That case is pending.

Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Fourth-degree offenses could lead to up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The case is being prosecuted by OPIA Deputy Attorneys General Brian Uzdavinis and Niccole Sandora, under the supervision of OPIA Corruption Bureau Deputy Chiefs Andrew Wellbrock and Jeffrey J. Manis and OPIA Executive Director Eicher.

Defense attorney:

Eric Shenkus, Deputy Public Defender, Cape May Court House, New Jersey

 

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