NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ–Sheriff Millie Scott announced on January 17 that an additional five employees in her department had been suspended without pay, pending termination.
All were departmentally charged with bribery, though no criminal charges have been filed.
All but one of the men suspended were alleged to have paid bribes in the indictment that led to a nine-year jail sentence for Joseph Spicuzzo, the longtime politician who ran the sheriff’s department for thrity years.
Investigators Christopher Jarema, Thomas Varga, and Giancarlo Russo were suspended on January 3 according to a statement released yesterday by the sheriff’s department to other media outlets.
And on January 16, Scott suspended Investigator Richard Mucia and Sheriff’s Officer Bruce Kentos.
New Brunswick Today published the identities of the four investigators suspended this month back in July 2013, asking the question “What Will Happen to Sheriff’s Investigators Who Paid Bribes to Get Hired?”
At that point, Sheriff Scott had only suspended two men accused of buying their jobs, Eric Strachan and Daniel Link. For some unknown reason, Jarema, Varga, Russo, and Mucia remained on the payroll for an additional six months.
The Spicuzzo indictment, approved by a grand jury in August 2011, considered twelve individuals to be co-conspirators in the jobs-for-cash scheme, but only named two of them, Darrin DiBiasi and Paul Lucarelli.
DiBiasi and Lucarelli, both officers on the sheriff’s force, were fired in 2011 for their role in the scheme. DiBiast is serving a 364-day jail sentence, which Lucarelli was sentenced to three years probation.
The other ten co-conspirators, many of whom worked in the department, were only identified by their initials in the document. They were either accused of facilitating bribe payments to Sheriff Spicuzzo, or paying bribe money in exchange for promotions or jobs.
Two co-conspirators who were sheriff’s employees still remain unidentified. One of them, identified by the initials T.U., collected a $5,000 bribe from DiBiasi and gave it to Spicuzzo according to the indictment.
A sheriff’s officer with the initials J.V. paid Spicuzzo two bribes, for $7,000 and $5,000, in exchange for promotions, according to the indictment.
The only other sheriff’s employee whose initials appeared in the indictment was Nicholas Decibus, who left the department in 2011.
Spicuzzo, a controversial figure who also ran the Middlesex County Democratic Organization until his arrest, dropped out of the race for sheriff in 2010 and supported Freeholder Millie Scott to take his place. Scott faced re-election for the first time in November and defeated her Republican opponent.
As we reported on January 7, Scott Campion, a dispatcher at the department was suspended without pay by Sheriff Scott for loitering to buy drugs in connection with an unrelated State Police operation.
Below is a table of the individuals who have been suspended or left the sheriff’s department under a cloud in recent years.
|Name||Job Title||Suspended?||Charges||Alleged Bribes Paid||Alleged Bribes Collected|
|Joseph Spicuzzo*||Sheriff||Retired in 2010||second-degree bribery||—||$47,000|
|Darren DiBiasi*||Investigator||Terminated in 2011||third-degree conspiracy to make illegal gifts to a public servant||$5,000||$35,000|
|Paul Lucarelli*||Sheriff’s Officer||Terminated in 2011||third-degree conspiracy to make illegal gifts to a public servant||—||$25,000|
|Nicholas Decibus||Investigator||Retired in 2011||None||$12,500||—|
|Eric Strachan||Investigator||June 27, 2013||conduct unbecoming a public employee and other sufficient cause||$12,500||—|
|Daniel Link||Investigator||June 27, 2013||conduct unbecoming a public employee and other sufficient cause||$25,000||—|
|Scott Campion||Dispatcher||Dec. 20, 2013||unrelated drug charges||—||—|
|Christopher Jarema||Investigator||Jan. 3||bribery and other sufficient cause||$10,000 (paid by relatives)||—|
|Thomas Varga||Investigator||Jan. 3||bribery and other sufficient cause||$25,000||—|
|Giancarlo Russo||Investigator||Jan. 3||conduct unbecoming a public employee, bribery and other sufficient cause||—||—|
|Richard Mucia||Investigator||Jan. 16||bribery and other sufficient cause||$10,000||—|
|Bruce Kentos||Sheriff’s Officer||Jan. 16||conduct unbecoming a public employee, neglect of duty, bribery, truthfulness and other sufficient cause||—||—|
|T. U.||Sheriff’s Officer||Unknown||None||—||$5,000|
|J. V.||Sheriff’s Officer||Unknown||None||$12,000||—|
* indicates the person has faced criminal charges. In each case, they have been found guilty.
The Home News Tribune reported that the announcement “comes on the heels of several state Open Public Records Act requests made by the Home News Tribune seeking the job status of several officers later named in her announcement Friday.”
Scott told HNT’s Sergio Bichao and Bob Makin that the departmental charges “arose out of facts discovered during the state Attorney General’s Office investigation” and that investigation materials were provided to her office only “in the last 60 days.”
According to the Star-Ledger, Sheriff Scott would not comment further on the matter when reached on the phone. For weeks, she has ignored New Brunswick Today’s questions about Campion, the dispatcher charged with drug offenses.
“My Office’s investigation will continue until a thorough review of all materials has been completed and until all Sheriff’s Officers and Sheriff’s Investigators involved in any inappropriate activity have been identified and disciplined,” Scott said.
New Brunswick Patch reported that Scott said the cases were still in internal affairs and “declined to comment on the process of termination for the suspended officers.”
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.