TRENTON –A supervisor at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey training academy in Morris County and another employee at the academy pleaded guilty to theft charges for collecting pay and reimbursement based on false attendance, mileage and meal records they submitted, Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced.
According to Taylor, Cotea Jones, 46, of Palmer, Pa., the supervisor of the Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals Training Academy in Morris County, pleaded guilty Tuesday to third-degree theft by deception before Superior Court Judge Kevin G. Callahan in Hudson County. The charge was contained in an accusation filed by the Division of Criminal Justice as a result of an investigation by the Port Authority’s Office of Inspector General.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Jones be sentenced to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation. She will be required to pay restitution to the Port Authority of $7,922. She resigned her job and will be permanently barred from public employment.
Also on Tuesday, Vincent Price, 50, of Roselle, an employee at the training academy in Morris County, pleaded guilty before Callahan to an accusation charging him with third-degree theft by deception. The state will recommend that he be sentenced to a term of probation. He must pay restitution of $2,103. He resigned his job in connection with the plea and will be permanently barred from public employment.
“We have zero tolerance for government employees who use their positions to steal public funds,” said Dow. “I commend the Port Authority for its vigilance.”
Port Authority Inspector General Robert E. Van Etten said: “The Port Authority Training Academy employees, including its Chief Trainer, pleading guilty today stole from the agency by staying home, visiting Atlantic City, or elsewhere, during times when they should have been training other staff. This investigation was initiated after evidence of “no-show” jobs was uncovered during an audit by the Inspector General’s Audit Department and turned over to IG investigators. I want to thank the Attorney General and her staff for prosecuting these corrupt employees. My office continues to be aggressive in investigating instances of wrongdoing by Port Authority staff and encourage other Port Authority staff to report any information of wrongdoing to the IG.”
“We will continue to work with the Port Authority and other public agencies to ensure that corrupt employees such as these are detected and prosecuted,” said Taylor.
The Port Authority’s Office of Inspector General commenced its investigation after a routine audit uncovered irregularities in the records submitted by the defendants. Detectives from the Port Authority OIG obtained further records and conducted surveillance of the defendants. The matter was subsequently referred to the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau for prosecution.
In pleading guilty, Jones and Price admitted that, for various dates between September 2009 and January 2010, they submitted attendance sheets indicating they completed a full day of work at the Morris County training academy or at other training locations, when, in fact, they had arrived late, left early, or had not reported to work at all. As a result, they were paid for a full day of work. In addition, Jones and Price admitted that they submitted false forms regarding mileage and meals that resulted in them receiving reimbursements to which they were not entitled.
Callahan scheduled sentencing for Jones and Price for Jan. 7. Deputy Attorney General Vincent J. Militello took the guilty pleas for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Detectives Danny DiPrimo and John Fitzgerald conducted the investigation for the Port Authority OIG. Detective Laura Clarke was assigned to the investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice.
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