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May 13, 10

NEWS / Former Local Supervisor of NJ Home Energy Assistance Program Indicted for Allegedly Defrauding Progr


TRENTON Ė Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that a Paulsboro woman who formerly worked as a local administrator of the New Jersey Home Energy Assistance (HEA) Program was charged today with stealing from the state program by filing fraudulent applications to obtain benefits for herself.

According to Director Taylor, the former administrator, Nicole Victor, 37, of Paulsboro, was charged in a state grand jury indictment with official misconduct (2nd degree), theft by deception (3rd degree), misapplication of entrusted property and property of government (3rd degree), financial facilitation of criminal activity (money laundering) (3rd degree), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), and falsifying records (4th degree).

The indictment stems from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, conducted with assistance from the Department of Community Affairs.

Victor was formerly an HEA administrator in the Paulsboro Office of Tri-County Community Action, a nonprofit contracted by the state to administer the HEA program in Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties. The indictment charges Victor with theft by deception for allegedly stealing $11,705 in home energy assistance funds by filing three false HEA applications and taking the assistance funds issued on these applications for her own benefit.

Victor worked for Tri-County from September 2002 through May 2008. She was hired as an HEA aide, and became an HEA supervisor in 2004. The indictment alleges that the thefts occurred during and after her employment at Tri-County, between June 1, 2005 and July 31, 2009. Victor is charged with official misconduct because, while employed by Tri-County as an HEA administrator, she allegedly used her position to file fictitious HEA applications to fraudulently generate benefits for herself.

In addition to the $11,705 in checks that Victor allegedly obtained by fraud from the HEA program, Victor allegedly traded numerous two-party HEA benefit checks, totaling $3,588, through local heating providers in return for cash. These benefit checks are issued by the HEA Program as two-party checks written to the applicant and their heating fuel provider to ensure that they are only used to purchase home heating fuel. In charging Victor with misapplication of entrusted property and property of government, the Indictment alleges she unlawfully disposed of a total of $13,361 in state funds, including the $11,705 alleged in the theft charge and an additional $1,656 from a benefit check she allegedly cashed through local oil provider Harris Fuel Oil which was issued on a HEA assistance application in her own name.

The second-degree official misconduct charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a $150,000 fine. Third-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of five years in state prison and a $15,000 fine, while fourth-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in state prison and a $10,000 fine. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

Deputy Attorneys General David M. Fritch and Robert Czepiel presented the case to the grand jury. The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Linda R. Feinberg, who assigned the case to Gloucester County, where Victor will be ordered to appear in court at a later date to answer the charges. The indictment is posted with this release at www.njpublicsafety.com.

Thomas J. Harris, 66, of Woolwich, the owner and sole proprietor of Harris Fuel Oil, pleaded guilty on Aug. 10, 2009 in a related investigation to second-degree charges of money laundering and misapplication of entrusted property and property of government. He admitted that he defrauded the HEA Program of $400,000 by offering low-income beneficiaries of the program cash for their state-issued assistance checks instead of fuel to heat their homes. He faces four years in state prison and must pay restitution. He is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27 by Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson in Gloucester County.

In a third related investigation, Constance Campbell, 24, of Chester, Pa., another former local administrator of the HEA program employed by Tri-County, pleaded guilty to second-degree official misconduct on Feb. 26 for stealing $24,000 from the program. She is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27 by Judge Allen-Jackson. The state will recommend that she be sentenced to five years in prison. She must pay full restitution to the Department of Community Affairs.

Five relatives of Campbell also pleaded guilty to assisting her in the scheme to defraud the state program. A brother, Dennis Campbell, 38 of Philadelphia, was sentenced on April 9 to up to 364 days in the county jail as a condition of two years of probation by Judge Allen-Jackson, and his wife, Hollyann Allen, was sentenced to three years of probation. A sister of Constance and Dennis Campbell was sentenced to probation, and two other sisters were admitted into the Pre-Trial Intervention program. All of the relatives must pay restitution for their shares of the theft.

The charges in the Victor, Harris and Campbell cases stem from investigations that were conducted by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau with assistance from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. The investigations were conducted and coordinated for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau by Lt. Keith Lerner, Sgt. Robert Ferriozzi, Detective Andrea Salvatini, Detective Anthony Luyber, Deputy Chief of Detectives Neal Cohen, Analyst Alison Callery and Deputy Attorneys General Fritch and Czepiel.

The HEA Program is administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and local agencies contracted by DCA. The New Jersey HEA Program encompasses two separate programs, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Universal Service Fund Program (USF). The LIHEAP program provides direct financial assistance to beneficiaries in the form of payments to utility companies and to fuel vendors to help low-income households meet the cost of home heating and medically necessary cooling. The USF program assists such households by providing credits against their natural gas and electric bills. The Victor indictment involves both programs. The Harris case involved the LIHEAP program, and the Campbell case involved both programs.

http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases10/pr20100512c.html

Tags: public record, public records,
 




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