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February 25, 11

NEWS / Former UMDNJ Administrator Sentenced to Prison for Taking Expensive Gifts from Contractor He Hired f

Charged in probe by State Commission of Investigation & Division of Criminal Justice

TRENTON – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that a former administrator at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey was sentenced to prison today for accepting expensive gifts from a contractor to whom he steered numerous university contracts. The contractor was also sentenced today as a result of an investigation by the State Commission of Investigation and the Division of Criminal Justice.

According to Director Taylor, Frank X. Watts, 59, of Oxford, the former director of the physical plant at UMDNJ, was sentenced to three years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Thomas V. Manahan in Morris County. Watts was required under his plea agreement to pay a penalty of $17,000, representing the value of the gifts, and he will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. Watts pleaded guilty on Dec. 2 to second-degree official misconduct, a charge contained in a March 31, 2009 state grand jury indictment.

In pleading guilty, Watts admitted that he accepted a gift from the contractor of a sun room, worth approximately $15,000, that was built around a large wooden deck at his home in 2002. The state’s investigation revealed that the contractor also paid for the $2,000 deck. Watts further admitted that he hired the contractor for numerous UMDNJ contracts.

“Officials who award government contracts have a duty to single-mindedly serve the public interest, not their own interests or the interests of favored contractors,” said Attorney General Dow. “This administrator is going to prison because he violated that duty and broke the law.”

“We have made prosecuting corruption a top priority and will continue to aggressively pursue public officials who unlawfully use their positions for personal gain,” said Director Taylor.

The case was investigated by the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation, which referred it to the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau in May 2007. Deputy Attorney General Michael A. Monahan prosecuted the case and represented the state at the sentencing.

The contractor, Daniel Cesario, 51, of East Hanover, was sentenced today to two years of probation by Judge Manahan. Cesario and his company, Cesario Construction Inc., pleaded guilty on Oct. 21 to misconduct by a corporate official. Cesario admitted he paid for the sun room in exchange for Watts helping him to secure contracts.

Under his plea agreement, Cesario paid $15,980 in restitution to the state, representing alleged overbilling on UMDNJ contracts. Cesario did not admit the overbilling in pleading guilty. Cesario and his company will be excluded from state government contracts in New Jersey for five years. The company was also ordered to pay a $45,000 fine.

State investigators determined that Cesario received nearly $2.9 million from UMDNJ for work that was steered to Cesario Construction by Watts during the last seven years that he was director. Cesario Construction did a variety of work for the university, including construction, plumbing, snow removal and HVAC maintenance.

As director of the physical plant, Watts had oversight over the hiring of contractors. Investigators found that Watts frequently did not follow proper procedures for public contracts. Cesario Construction was repeatedly hired for jobs on an emergency basis, without engaging in a bidding process, even when there was no emergency.

Attorney General Dow thanked the SCI for its investigation and referral.

Special Agent Michael Dancisin investigated the case for the SCI. Detective Robert Stemmer and Civil Investigator Joseph Salvatore investigated for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, in coordination with former Assistant Attorney General Lewis Korngut.

Watts retired from UMDNJ in June 2006 while this matter was under investigation.

Attorney General Dow and Director Taylor noted that the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. The statewide Corruption Tipline is 1-866-TIPS-4CJ. 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 Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Tipline or Web page will remain confidential.




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