TRENTON – A former auditor for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) pleaded guilty today to falsifying audit records and time sheets to cover up unexcused absences and his failure to perform assigned audits of private vehicle inspection facilities, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced.
James Pluchino, 52, of Manahawkin, pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by deception before Superior Court Judge Wendel E. Daniels in Ocean County. The charge was contained in a state grand jury indictment obtained on Feb. 24 as a result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and the MVC’s Division of Security, Investigation and Internal Audit. Deputy Attorney General Peter Lee took the plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Pluchino be sentenced to up to 364 days in the county jail and a term of probation. He will be required to pay restitution to the MVC of $9,313 and will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. Daniels scheduled sentencing for Pluchino for Sept. 14.
“This state worker betrayed the public on two levels. First, he collected over $9,000 in unearned wages by filing false time sheets to cover up at least 40 unexcused absences in a six-month period,” said Chiesa. “Beyond that, he failed to perform his duties, which meant that numerous private inspection facilities were not audited to ensure that they were properly inspecting vehicles.”
“The MVC should be commended for its vigilance,” said Director Stephen J. Taylor of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Through criminal prosecutions such as this one, we send a strong deterrent message that we have zero tolerance for dishonest public employees.”
In pleading guilty, Pluchino, a former MVC compliance officer, admitted that he did not perform a large number of his assigned audits of private inspection facilities (PIFs) between March and August 2010. He was assigned to a route that included 94 PIFs. He was responsible for providing vehicle inspection stickers to the PIFs and auditing their documentation to make sure all stickers could be accounted for with corresponding inspection records. Pluchino admitted that, despite his failure to conduct numerous audits, he falsely reported to the MVC that he had completed the audits, and he submitted computerized time sheets indicating he worked on days when he did not perform any duties.
The Division of Criminal Justice estimated that Pluchino, whose annual salary was $62,661, fraudulently collected a total of $9,313 for days that he did not work. He falsified time sheets for at least 40 days when he did not perform any duties. Pluchino resigned in September 2010, prior to being charged in this case, after 25 years of employment with the MVC.
The case was investigated for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau by Detective Lee Bailey, Detective Shaun Egan and Deputy Attorney General Lee.
The case was brought to the attention of the MVC’s Division of Security, Investigation and Internal Audit (S&I) by MVC Inspection Services Director Thomas Bednarz and Coordinator Paul Giordano, who became aware that Pluchino was not doing the PIF inspections he was assigned during several months in 2010. The matter was investigated for the MVC by Investigator Stephen Crane, with the assistance of S&I Chief of Investigations James Clifford.
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