TRENTON – Another former Middlesex County sheriff’s investigator was arrested today on charges that he assisted former Sheriff Joseph C. Spicuzzo in collecting a bribe from an individual seeking a position in the sheriff’s office, Attorney General Paula T. Dow announced.
According to Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor, Darrin P. DiBiasi, 43, of Monmouth Junction, surrendered today to detectives of the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau on a complaint and warrant charging him with second-degree official misconduct. Authorities allege that DiBiasi collected a $13,000 bribe for Spicuzzo from an individual who was hired as a sheriff’s investigator in early 2005.
The charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison. DiBiasi had an initial appearance before Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci Jr. in Monmouth County and was released without bail. He resigned from his job as a sheriff’s investigator last month.
DiBiasi is the second sheriff’s office employee to be charged with serving as an intermediary by allegedly collecting a bribe for Spicuzzo from an individual seeking to be hired as a sheriff’s investigator. Sheriff’s Officer Paul Lucarelli, 45, of South River, was charged in March with conspiracy to commit official misconduct and conspiracy to commit bribery, both second-degree offenses, for allegedly collecting and delivering a $25,000 bribe for Spicuzzo. He has been suspended without pay from his position as a sheriff’s officer.
Spicuzzo, 65, of Helmetta, was charged by complaint on March 7 with second-degree charges of pattern of official misconduct and bribery. The charges stem from an ongoing investigation by the State Police Official Corruption Bureau and Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
“This is the second sworn member of the Sheriff’s Office to be charged with acting as a bag man for Sheriff Spicuzzo by allegedly collecting a bribe,” said Dow. “The allegations against Spicuzzo and his co-defendants paint a disturbing picture of abuse of power and contempt for the law by men who took an oath to uphold it.”
“Law enforcement officers are rightly held to a higher standard of conduct, but we allege that Spicuzzo turned that principle on its head by enlisting new recruits and subordinates in his corrupt scheme of personal enrichment,” said Taylor.
Authorities allege that on two or more occasions from 2007 to 2008, while serving as county sheriff, 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. It is alleged that Spicuzzo solicited and accepted individual bribes of up to $25,000 from new hires for investigator positions. He allegedly took bribes totaling at least $50,000.
Spicuzzo was Middlesex County Sheriff for nearly 30 years. Following his arrest in this case, he resigned as Middlesex County Democratic Party chairman, a position he held for 16 years. He also resigned from his position as a commissioner on the New Jersey Sports & Exposition Authority, to which he was appointed in December 2009.
Under state law, second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $150,000. If convicted, Spicuzzo and Lucarelli would face a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison without parole because they are accused of conduct that occurred after April 14, 2007, the effective date for New Jersey’s statutory sentencing enhancements for public corruption. DiBiasi does not face the mandatory minimum because his alleged conduct occurred before that date.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
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