Updated 4:21 p.m.
TRENTON –Former Middlesex County Sheriff Joseph C. Spicuzzo was arrested this morning on charges that he demanded bribes of up to $25,000 from individuals seeking employment or promotions in the sheriff’s office, Attorney General Paula T. Dow announced.
“This is an outrageous case of abuse of power and public office,” said Dow. “Sheriff Spicuzzo allegedly introduced young recruits to a career in law enforcement by demanding that they pay him bribes of up to $25,000.”
“Offenses of this nature erode the trust that the public expects from law enforcement officials,” said State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes. “We have to ensure the citizens of New Jersey that this type of behavior is unacceptable and has dire consequences.”
Spicuzzo, 65, of Helmetta, surrendered to State Police detectives in Hamilton, according to state Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor. Spicuzzo was charged with pattern of official misconduct and bribery, both second-degree offenses. Each charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison, with a mandatory minimum term of five years without possibility of parole.
The charges stem from an ongoing investigation by the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau. On two or more occasions from 2007 to 2008, authorities allege that Spicuzzo demanded that different individuals pay him bribes in return for him appointing them as new sheriff’s investigators or promoting them within the sheriff’s office.
Sheriff’s officers are hired through the civil service system, but sheriff’s investigators are appointed by the sheriff. Spicuzzo allegedly solicited and accepted individual bribes of up to $25,000 from new hires for investigator positions. He is accused of receiving bribes totaling at least $50,000.
Spicuzzo was Middlesex County Sheriff for nearly 30 years. He stepped down today from his position as the Middlesex County Democratic Party chairman, a job he held for 16 years. Spicuzzo is also a commissioner on the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, to which he was appointed in December 2009.
Officials said that the investigation into alleged misconduct by Spicuzzo in the sheriff’s office is continuing, but further details will not be released at this time.
Dow thanked Fuentes and the detectives assigned to investigation: Lieutenant Thomas T. Goletz, Detective Sergeant First Class Garrett Duffy and other members of the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of Capt. David J. Dalrymple, who heads the Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Vincent Militello is prosecuting the case for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Christine Hoffman, Chief of the Corruption Bureau.
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