TRENTON-The former insurance broker for the Toms River Regional School District was sentenced today to 135 months in prison for his role in a scheme to pay bribes and other benefits to the then-superintendent of schools to get and maintain a contract to provide insurance services for the district, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Francis X. Gartland, 71, of Baltimore, Md., previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano to charges of mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud the IRS, and perjury. Pisano imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
From 2002 to 2010, Gartland and co-conspirators Frank D’Alonzo, 55, a former administrator at the Toms River Regional School District, Frank Cotroneo, 62, an insurance broker, and others paid $1 million to $2 million in bribes and other benefits to Michael J. Ritacco, 66, who was then superintendent. The payments were made to allow Gartland to obtain and keep the insurance contract with the district. Gartland admitted that in 2002, he, Ritacco, Cotroneo, and D’Alonzo agreed to have Ritacco approve a workers’ compensation insurance contract between Gartland and the school district in which the contract fee would yield $500,000 to $600,000 per year in excess fees, which would be used to pay bribes and kickbacks to Ritacco.
Gartland admitted his role in conspiring with Ritacco to defraud the IRS by hiding these bribes and other benefits that were paid to Ritacco – and to other individuals at Ritacco’s direction – during the same period. To conceal the scheme, Gartland and Ritacco agreed to use middlemen, shell companies, sham consulting contracts, and third-party payments to secretly pass hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash bribes and other payments to Ritacco. Gartland also admitted to filing fraudulent individual tax returns for tax years 2004 through 2007 and to conspiring with Cotroneo and Thomas O’Leary to evade their respective federal income taxes.
Gartland also admitted that on Jan. 23, 2012, he committed perjury before the U.S. District Court in Trenton when he submitted a false affidavit that stated his payments to D’Alonzo and another individual identified in the Superseding Indictment as the “Intermediary” were not, and were never intended to be, disguised bribes to Ritacco.
Gartland admitted his role in a scheme to funnel thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions through straw contributors to the Democratic primary election campaign of Joseph Vas, 57, who was running for Congress in 2006. Gartland said he participated in a scheme with co-defendant Thomas O’Leary, the former executive director of the South Amboy Housing Authority, to use “straw” or “conduit” contributors to make contributions to the 2005-2006 Vas congressional campaign. During that time period, Gartland, through his various companies, was the insurance broker of record for the City of Perth Amboy and the Perth Amboy Board of Education. Gartland received thousands of dollars in commissions for those representations and split a portion of those commissions with O’Leary. The purpose of the straw contributions to Vas, then the mayor of Perth Amboy and a New Jersey State assemblyman, was to ensure that Gartland maintained the lucrative insurance brokerage representations with the City of Perth Amboy and the Perth Amboy Board of Education. Gartland acknowledged that he recruited approximately 10 straw contributors to contribute $2,000 each to Vas’ federal campaign committee, that he reimbursed by cash or check with funds provided by him. Straw contributions are prohibited by the Federal Election Campaign Act.
Gartland also admitted to filing fraudulent individual tax returns for tax years 2004 through 2007 and to conspiring with Cotroneo and Thomas O’Leary, 51, to evade their respective federal income taxes.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Pisano sentenced Gartland to three years of supervised release. Restitution and forfeiture will be determined at a hearing on Dec. 12, 2012.
Ritacco previously pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the IRS. He was sentenced on Sept. 14, 2012 to 135 months in prison, three years of supervised release, and ordered to pay a $100,000 fine.
Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, and IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen, for the investigation leading to today’s sentence.
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