EDISON, NJ–On August 2, retired Edison Police Department (EPD) Captain Natale Fresco pled guilty to a third-degree charge of theft by unlawful taking in connection with charges he was working a private job while using up his remaining sick days before quitting the police job.
They are two things that many police officers do–working side jobs, and using up weeks or months worth of sick time on their way out the door. But when the two practices are simultaneous, it's illegal, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office (MCPO).
County Prosecutor Andrew Carey's office announced the plea in a statement that said Fresco admitted to stealing $38,162 from the township while working another job. Prosecutors had originally claimed he stole "more than $43,000."
Fresco, a 61-year-old resident of Edison admitted to working as a security guard at Menlo Park Mall while he was taking sick time as a township police officer.
In between July 15 and September 30, Fresco was getting paid to work the mall job, and simultaneously using up his sick days with the EPD. He retired from the department on October 1, and was charged by the MCPO on November 5.
Some had speculated that the charges were retaliation for a lawsuit Fresco had filed against Edison Township, along with six other officers alleging they were inappropriately targeted by EPD's internal affairs division because of their involvement in local politics.
That case was settled out of court for $200,000 by Edison Township shortly before Fresco's retirement.
It's still not clear if Fresco had asked his boss, Chief Thomas Bryan, for permission to work the side job while using up his remaining sick days.
The investigation was led by MCPO Detective Nicholas Chiorello. Under a plea agreement reached with Middlesex County Assistant Prosecutor Christine D’Elia, Fresco "may be sentenced to serve up to 180 days in custody and placed on probation," according to the MCPO statement.
In addition, Fresco agreed to repay the amount he stole from the township, and be banned from public employment in New Jersey.
His sentencing is scheduled for October 11, in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge Colleen M. Flynn.
New Brunswick Today obtained the MCPO press release despite the agency's decision to remove all of our reporters from their media list in February.