TRENTON – A former supervisor and two other former employees at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey training academy in Morris County were sentenced today for collecting pay and reimbursement based on false attendance, mileage and meal records, Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced.
According to Taylor, Cotea Jones, 46, of Palmer, Pa., the former supervisor of the Tunnels, Bridges and Terminals Training Academy in Morris County, was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay $7,922 in restitution to the Port Authority by Superior Court Judge Kevin G. Callahan in Hudson County. In addition, former academy employee Vincent Price, 50, of Roselle, was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay $2,103, and former employee Stephen Valenzano, 43, of Hazlet, was sentenced to one year of probation and ordered to pay $2,544 in restitution.
The defendants pleaded guilty to accusations charging them with third-degree theft by deception. Jones and Price pleaded on Nov. 9, and Valenzano, on Nov. 17. All are permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey as a result of their pleas. They had no prior criminal records, and under New Jersey law, there is a presumption against jail or prison time if a defendant is sentenced for a third-degree crime and has no prior felony record. Deputy Attorney General Vincent J. Militello prosecuted the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
The charges resulted from an investigation by the Port Authority’s Office of Inspector General, which began when a routine audit uncovered irregularities in the records submitted by the defendants. Detectives Danny DiPrimo and John Fitzgerald conducted the investigation for the Port Authority OIG. The matter was referred to the Division of Criminal Justice for prosecution. Detective Laura Clarke was assigned to the investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice.
Valenzano, Jones and Price admitted that, for various dates from September 2009 through January 2010, they submitted attendance sheets indicating they worked a full day 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, the three defendants admitted that they submitted false forms regarding mileage and meals that resulted in them receiving reimbursements to which they were not entitled.
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