TRENTON – A former Middlesex County sheriff’s officer was sentenced today for assisting former Sheriff Joseph Spicuzzo in a jobs-for-cash scheme in which Spicuzzo collected about $112,000 in bribes from individuals seeking positions or promotions in the sheriff’s office.
Paul A. Lucarelli, 48, of South River, was sentenced to three years of probation by Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci Jr. in Monmouth County. He also was ordered to perform 500 hours of community service and pay a $2,500 fine. He is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. Lucarelli pleaded guilty on June 25 to a third-degree charge of conspiracy to make illegal gifts to a public servant.
Spicuzzo, 68, of Helmetta, was sentenced on Sept. 20 by Judge Mellaci to nine years in state prison, including two years of parole ineligibility, and was ordered to pay a $55,000 fine. Spicuzzo, who pleaded guilty to a second-degree charge of bribery, forfeited his entire state pension and is permanently barred from public employment.
A former sheriff’s investigator, Darrin P. DiBiasi, 45, of Monmouth Junction, also was sentenced on Sept. 20. DiBiasi was sentenced to 364 days in jail and five years of probation and was ordered to perform 200 hours of community service. Like Spicuzzo and Lucarelli, he is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione, Chief of the Corruption Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Michael A. Monahan, Deputy Bureau Chief, prosecuted the case 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.
Officials 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.
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, Lucarelli and DiBiasi admitted that they conspired with Spicuzzo in the jobs-for-cash scheme. The investigation revealed that Lucarelli collected a bribe of approximately $25,000 from an individual seeking an investigator position and delivered it to Spicuzzo in 2008. 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 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.
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