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February 21, 11

NEWS / Former Morris County Tax Commissioner Sentenced to State Prison for Voting to Hire Company to Which


TRENTON – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that former Morris County Tax Commissioner Anthony Crecco was sentenced to prison today for unlawfully voting to award a county contract to a software company with which he had personal dealings and fraudulently underpaying sales tax on a Mercedes he bought from the CEO of that company. A co-defendant was also sentenced today.

According to Director Taylor, Crecco, 64, of East Hanover, was sentenced to three years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Thomas V. Manahan in Morris County. Crecco pleaded guilty on Oct. 20, 2011 to second-degree official misconduct and third-degree failure to pay sales tax. He is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey under the plea agreement. He was ordered to pay $882 in sales tax to the Division of Motor Vehicles and a $500 fine.

In addition, Crecco agreed under the plea agreement to pay restitution to the Florham Park-Fairfield Elks Lodge for funds that he and co-defendant Konstantin Belenky, 43, of East Hanover, misappropriated from the Elks Lodge to pay personal gambling debts. The state’s investigation revealed that they diverted $278,650 from the Elks Lodge to gamble in Atlantic City. Both men were members of the lodge, and Belenky was treasurer at the time.

Co-defendant Belenky was sentenced today to two years of probation by Superior Court Judge David H. Ironson in Morris County. Belenky pleaded guilty on June 24, 2009 to a charge of theft by unlawful taking, admitting that he conspired with Crecco to steal from the Elks. Crecco did not admit to stealing from the Elks, but agreed to be held jointly and severally liable with Belenky for paying back the remaining $35,460 that the two men had not already repaid at the time of Crecco’s plea. Belenky has since repaid that balance.

“Public officials have a strict duty to avoid conflicts of interest,” said Attorney General Dow. “In this case, Mr. Crecco clearly violated his duty and the law by mixing personal and public business in a way that undermined the integrity of his official decisions. It is particularly troubling that as a tax commissioner, he pleaded guilty to a criminal charge of failure to pay sales tax.”

“This case should send a clear message that we will not tolerate public officials who break the law to advance their own interests or the interests of their friends,” said Director Taylor. “There is no room in government for this type of cronyism.”

Deputy Attorney General Robert Czepiel Jr. prosecuted the case and represented the state at today’s sentencing hearing. He was assisted by Deputy Attorney General Paul Salvatoriello. The charges were contained in an April 29, 2009 indictment that stemmed from an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.

In pleading guilty to official misconduct, Crecco admitted that he improperly voted to award a contract to software vendor Vital Communications, despite personal connections to the company and its chief executive officer. A committee appointed by the county tax administrator to evaluate contractors voted in December 2004 to recommend that the county accept a bid by Vital to supply software to the tax board for $118,560. The county freeholders approved the bid.

As a member of the evaluation committee, Crecco had a duty to recuse himself from that request for proposals because he was in the process of negotiating with Vital’s CEO to buy a Mercedes from him. Crecco was a friend of the CEO and had previously golfed with him and attended his wedding in Las Vegas. Crecco, who was president of the Tax Board at the time, admitted that he violated his duty by participating in the recommendation. He voted for Vital, giving its bid a perfect score.

In pleading guilty to failure to pay sales tax, Crecco admitted that he deliberately failed to pay the full sales tax due on his purchase of a car from Vital’s CEO. Crecco paid the CEO $28,700 in January 2005 to purchase a 1998 Mercedes Benz SL 600. However, in registering the car with the Motor Vehicle Commission, Crecco reported that he purchased the car for $14,000. As a result, Crecco paid $840 in sales tax to the state when he actually owed $1,722. He thereby unlawfully evaded $882 in sales tax.

The remaining counts in the indictment were dismissed. Crecco served on the Tax Board until May 2009. He was not reappointed to the board following his indictment.

The investigation was conducted and coordinated by Detective Deniele DeBoer, Detective Sgt. 1st Class Bryant C. Hoar, Detective Sgt. Geoffrey P. Forker and Detective Sgt. Myles Cappiello of the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau, and Analyst Allison Callery and Deputy Attorney General Czepiel of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.

Attorney General Dow and Director Taylor noted that the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau 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 through the Tipline or Web page will remain confidential.

http://www.nj.gov/oag/newsreleases11/pr20110218a.html

 




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