TRENTON – Former Middlesex County Sheriff Joseph C. Spicuzzo was sentenced to prison today for orchestrating a jobs-for-cash scheme in which he collected about $112,000 in bribes from individuals seeking positions or promotions in the sheriff’s office, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced. An investigator who worked under Spicuzzo in the sheriff’s office and assisted him in collecting bribes was also sentenced to jail.
Spicuzzo, 68, of Helmetta, was sentenced to nine years in state prison, including two years of parole ineligibility, by Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci Jr. in Monmouth County. Spicuzzo was also ordered to pay a $55,000 fine. Spicuzzo pleaded guilty on June 25 to a second-degree charge of bribery. Spicuzzo forfeited his entire state pension and is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
Darrin P. DiBiasi, 45, of Monmouth Junction, a former sheriff’s investigator, was sentenced by Mellaci to 364 days in the county jail as a condition of five years of probation. DiBiasi was also ordered to serve 200 hours of community service and to pay a $5,000 fine. DiBiasi pleaded guilty on June 25 to a third-degree charge of conspiracy to make illegal gifts to a public servant. Like Spicuzzo, he is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
Paul A. Lucarelli, 48, of South River, another sheriff’s officer who also worked for Spicuzzo and pleaded guilty on June 25 to a third-degree charge of conspiracy to make illegal gifts to a public servant, is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 4.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione, Chief of the Corruption Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Michael A. Monahan, Deputy Bureau Chief, took the guilty pleas and handled the sentencings for the Division of Criminal Justice. The charges stem from a joint investigation by the State Police Official Corruption Bureau and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
“Sheriff Spicuzzo’s decades as a political power broker in Middlesex County corrupted him to the point that he viewed jobs in the sheriff’s office as personal assets he could sell for his own enrichment,” said Hoffman. “Spicuzzo clearly thought he was above the law, because that is the only way to explain his brazen demands for bribes from new recruits. With this prison sentence, we affirm that nobody is above the law in New Jersey.”
“Because of the power they wield and the way they insulate themselves behind loyal subordinates, entrenched leaders like Spicuzzo can be hard to uncover and prosecute,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge anyone with information about public corruption to contact us confidentially so that we can bring these dishonest officials to justice. We vow that we will aggressively pursue all leads.”
The state, through its investigation, determined that between March 1996 and November 2008, while serving as county sheriff, Spicuzzo demanded that eight people pay him bribes in return for him appointing them as new sheriff’s investigators or promoting them within the office. Sheriff’s officers are hired through the civil service system, but sheriff’s investigators are appointed by the sheriff. The state’s investigation revealed that young applicants seeking law enforcement positions as investigators were forced to exhaust all sources of funding available to them to pay the bribes.
The investigation determined that Spicuzzo directly or indirectly solicited and accepted individual bribes ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 from seven individuals seeking to be hired as investigators. Those individuals included DiBiasi, who paid a $5,000 bribe prior to being hired in 1999. Spicuzzo also took two bribes from a sheriff’s officer in the amounts of $7,000 and $5,000 in return for two promotions within the sheriff’s office between 2007 and 2008. Each person who paid a bribe was given the promised position.
In pleading guilty, DiBiasi admitted that he conspired with Spicuzzo in the jobs-for-cash scheme. The investigation revealed that DiBiasi collected three bribes from individuals seeking investigator positions and delivered them to Spicuzzo between 2002 and 2005, including two bribes of approximately $12,500 and one bribe of approximately $10,000.
Spicuzzo was arrested by State Police detectives on March 7, 2011 and DiBiasi was arrested on July 7, 2011.
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. DiBiasi retired from his job as a sheriff’s investigator in June 2011, prior to his arrest.
The investigation was conducted by Lt. Garrett Duffy, Detective Sgt. Brian Murphy, Detective Sgt. Lisa King and other members of the State Police Official Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of former bureau chief, Capt. Thomas T. Goletz, and by Deputy Attorney General Vincent J. Militello, under the supervision of Assistant Attorney General Christine Hoffman, who is Deputy Director of the Division of Criminal Justice and former Chief of the Corruption Bureau.
Hoffman and Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice web page at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing. All information received will remain confidential.
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