Elizabeth School Board President Indicted For Allegedly Filing False Applications For Free Lunch Program

Marie L. Munn (Photo courtesy of the NJ Attorney General's Office)

TRENTON – The president of the Elizabeth School Board has been indicted for allegedly stealing from the Elizabeth School District’s free lunch program by filing false applications for her children, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced. The federally funded program offers free and reduced-price lunches for students who otherwise might not be able to afford them.

Marie L. Munn, 47, of Elizabeth, the current president of the Elizabeth School Board, was indicted yesterday by a state grand jury on third-degree charges of theft by deception and tampering with public records or information.

Munn allegedly filed false applications for her two children for the district’s free and reduced-price lunch program, which resulted in one or both children receiving benefits to which they were not entitled in each of the five consecutive school years 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11. One child graduated in 2009, so only the remaining child received benefits in the last two years. Her children allegedly received $4,549 in benefits to which they were not entitled.

Munn allegedly grossly understated her household income to obtain the benefits for her children. Her and her husband’s annual incomes exceeded the federal household income limit for the program by as much as $100,000 in 2008-09, and by $94,000 or more in three of the other years.

“You would think that the school board president of an Abbott district would carefully guard any resources dedicated to helping disadvantaged schoolchildren,” said Chiesa. “But this indictment charges that Marie Munn shamelessly stole $4,549 from the federally funded free lunch program by filing fraudulent applications for her own children.”

“With this indictment, we are moving forward with our prosecution of Munn,” said Director Stephen J. Taylor of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge any member of the public who has information regarding suspected fraud involving the free school lunch program or any other public assistance program to contact us.”

Munn was initially arrested on Sept. 19, 2011, along with two other individuals who allegedly defrauded the Elizabeth School District’s free lunch program: Peter W. Abitanto, 43, of Elizabeth, who is the husband of the head custodian for the Elizabeth School District, and Angela Lucio, 36, of Elizabeth, an employee of the City of Elizabeth and ex-wife of a principal in the Elizabeth School District. The original complaints against Abitanto and Lucio, charging them with third-degree theft by deception and tampering with public records, are pending.

The charges against the defendants are merely accusations and they are presumed innocent until proven guilty. Third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

The investigation was launched by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau after an article in The Star-Ledger alleged that the children of officials in the Elizabeth school district were improperly participating in the federally subsidized school lunch program despite household incomes that exceeded the limits for eligibility.

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