TRENTON – Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone pleaded guilty today to filing false reports with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced.
According to Taylor, Chiappone, 52, of Bayonne, a Democrat who represents the 31st Legislative District, pleaded guilty to a third-degree charge of tampering with public records or information before Superior Court Judge Gerald J. Council in Mercer County. As a result of the guilty plea, Chiappone must forfeit his seat in the New Jersey General Assembly and will be permanently excluded from holding public office in New Jersey.
In pleading guilty, Chiappone admitted that he completed and certified the campaign contribution and expenditure reports filed with ELEC for the 2005 Chiappone for Assembly campaign, knowing that they were false because they failed to report five state-issued paychecks for a legislative aide totaling $3,233.64 that were deposited into the campaign account. He falsely certified that contributions to the campaign did not exceed ELEC limits, even though the total of the aide’s checks exceeded the limit of $2,600 for contributions from a single individual.
The state will recommend that Chiappone be sentenced to a term of probation. Council scheduled sentencing for Sept. 10. Deputy Attorney General Susan Kase prosecuted the case and took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
“The people of New Jersey have a right to expect that their elected officials will uphold the law and act honestly in all official matters,” said Attorney General Dow. “Assemblyman Chiappone must forfeit his public office because he broke the law, dishonestly attempting to evade campaign reporting requirements.”
“A tip from a citizen led to the prosecution of this state assemblyman and his removal from office,” said Taylor. “We hope prosecutions such as this one will encourage members of the public to report suspected misconduct to the Division of Criminal Justice. We will vigorously pursue any leads in our fight against public corruption.”
The charge was contained in an Aug. 26, 2009 state grand jury indictment which also named Chiappone’s wife, Diane. The charges against her will be dismissed based on his plea.
The investigation was led by Deputy Attorney General Kase, Detective Melissa Calkin and Sgt. Joseph Caloiaro of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
Chiappone was first elected to the Assembly in 2003. He lost the Democratic primary in June 2005, but was elected to the Assembly again in November 2007. He was re-elected in November 2009. He also served as a city councilman for Bayonne from 1998 to 2009.
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