NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A man facing more than 30 criminal counts including fraudulently collecting disability payments while working as a city firefighter has cut a plea deal with prosecutors, according to TapInto New Brunswick's Jack Murtha.
Dell Walker, age 55, pled guilty to insurance fraud and one count of official misconduct, as well as unrelated shoplifting and drug possession charges out of East Brunswick and New Brunswick respectively.
Walker reportedly got away with the fraudulent disability scheme from May 2013 through November 2015.
The majority of charges against him will be dismissed under the deal, which will also bring an end to his 20-year career with the New Brunswick Fire Department (NBFD).
Walker would serve eight years in prison, and would not be eligible for parole for the first two years of his sentence, according to court documents obtained by New Brunswick Today.
The deal would also require Walker to surrender his job as a New Brunswick firefighter, and be barred from ever working in New Jersey's public sector again. He must also pay the insurance company Aflac $53,265 in restitution for the scam.
City officials never said whether they did their own investigation into Walker and another firefighter caught doing the same kind of fraud. Instead, they left it up to Aflac to investigate and never publicized the findings.
Walker had been facing a slew of additional charges, including a second official misconduct count and a separate charge of "pattern of official misconduct," as well as theft by deception, and 24 counts of forgery.
"Walker forged a number of signatures, including that of New Brunswick’s personnel manager and several doctors, to illegally obtain disability insurance, according to the prosecutor’s office," reported Murtha. "But he continued to work for the fire department during that time."
The deal caps a sad story that included several additional unrelated arrests and charges leveled against Walker, and another firefighter being charged with a nearly-identical fraud scheme.
Walker lives on Seaman Street, according to court documents, and had been with the department for almost twenty years when he was unceremoniously arrested in November 2015.
As we reported, Walker was arrested again in August 2016, this time on heroin charges along with several other men including his son of the same name, a man who previously worked for the NJ Department of Corrections according to his Facebook page.
TapInto revealed the charges against the elder Walker stemming from this incident included "possession, possession with intent to distribute, possession with intent to distribute near Redshaw Elementary School, and conspiring with others to get and sell heroin."
Those charges will, however, be dropped under the plea deal reached on December 16.
In October 2016, cops arrested Walker for a third time in a twelve-month period, and charged him with cocaine possession.
Walker pleaded guilty to that charge, as well as an outstanding shoplifting charge from December 2014 that apparently did not cost him his job, according to TapInto New Brunswick. Those pleas secured him an additional six years on his sentence.
As we reported, Walker is not the only NBFD employee to have shoplifted but still been able to work for the agency.
The department's top man, and the city's highest-paid worker Robert Rawls pleaded guilty to assault and shoplifting back stemming from a December 1986 incident, some three years before he was hired.
Those matters were not adjudicated until 1990, after Rawls had already joined the NBFD. He ascended to the civilian Fire Director position in 2006, after being appointed to it by Mayor James Cahill.
Rawls came under scrutiny after he crashed into three children while driving his city-owned vehicle in may 2014, sparking mass protests. He ultimately paid a $206 fine, kept his job, but lost his driving priveleges at work.
For his part, Rawls has not done any jail time, at least according to the records New Brunswick Today has obtained.
But Walker, on the other hand, is now looking at eight years in state prison, if the plea deal is accepted, and possibly more if the judge rejects the proposed bargain.
Sentencing is scheduled for April 7 before Judge Joseph Paone at the Middlesex County Courthouse.
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 and a community organizer, and an independent candidate for Mayor of New Brunswick.