Former New Brunswick Vice Principal Pleads Guilty to Stealing Over $26K in Student Fees

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Patricia Ruggeri, a former Vice Principal in the New Brunswick school system who admitted to stealing more than $26,000, is still awaiting sentencing, two months after pleading guilty and more than a year after she was arrested.

On October 3, Ruggeri plead guilty to a third-degree theft charge and will likely avoid going to state prison if a judge approves the plea agreement offerred by Middlesex County's Prosecutor.

"Under the plea agreement, she will be sentenced to 364 days at the Middlesex County Adult Corrections Center and may be ordered to serve a probationary term of up to five years," said James O'Neill, a spokesman for county prosecutor Andrew Carey.

O'Neill added that Ruggeri "must make restitution in the amount of $26,090" and that she will be barred from holding public office or a public job in New Jersey.

Previously scheduled for yesterday, Ruggeri's sentencing was adjourned to a date to be determined later according to O'Neill.

As we reported last November, Ruggeri was originally charged with stealing "at least $12,000" in fees paid by students to take a graduation equivalency diploma (GED).

She made a salary of at least $91,060 as a vice principal at the city's Adult Learning Center, according to public records.

Three days after voters approved the concept of having school board elections for the first time in history, then-Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan authorized and announced Ruggieri's arrest.  Previously, the city's mayor appointed the entire school board.

Ruggeri's crimes occurred between April 2011 and July 2012, according to a statement from the Middlesex County Prosecutor's office.

In June 2012, Ruggeri took a leave of a leave of absence and eventually resigned to take a job with Rutgers-Camden. The investigation began after her resignation in September according to the statement.

"During her leave, school officials detected discrepancies in student fees and contacted authorities… The investigation is continuing to determine if additional funds are missing" read the November 2012 statement.

Though she was employed by Rutgers-Camden, the university declined to say whether or not she was fired from the job, instead only acknowledging she was no longer employed there.

"Rutgers does not comment on personnel matters, and so I cannot and do not comment on your characterization of Ms. Ruggeri’s departure from Rutgers," said spokesman Michael Sepanic.

New Brunswick's Superintendent of Schools Richard Kaplan never responded to New Brunswick Today's inquiry about Ruggieri, but told another reporter that he himself had discovered the financial discrepancies and reported them to local police.

According to a video that has since been removed from YouTube, Ruggeri is a graduate of a leadership development program run by New Brunswick Tomorrow, a non-profit organization "dedicated to enriching the lives of New Brunswick's people."

The video prominently featured Ruggeri, as well as City Coucil President Rebecca Escobar, and Mario Vargas, a former New Brunswick Tomorrow employee who abruptly left the city–and his job running the Puerto Rican Action Board–amidst rumors of an internal sexual harassment investigation.

 

Charlie is a community organizer, a Rutgers journalism graduate, and a 2018 independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.

He can be reached at (732) 993-9697 or [email protected]