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Ex-Hazlet Transportation Manager Charged With Stealing $229K From School District

The ex-transportation head for Hazlet and Piscataway School Districts was charged Wednesday with stealing a total of $565,000 from the districts by authorizing payments to fictitious bus companies for services never provided.

A former employee of the Hazlet Township and Piscataway School Districts was arrested yesterday by the state police, and charged with stealing approximately $565,772 from both districts. 

According to police, former Transportation Manager/Supervisor Michelle Pumilia, 39, of Union Beach authorized payments to fictitious bus companies for transportation services that were never provided to the districts, Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa said today.

She worked in Hazlet Township School District between July 2005 and August 2008.

Pumilia was arrested by NJ State Police detectives yesterday on a complaint-summons charging her with second-degree theft by unlawful taking or disposition.  

Her mother, Virginia Lisay, 68, who lives with her in Union Beach, was also arrested yesterday on the same charge.  

Pumilia allegedly signed off on numerous purchase orders in the two school districts, authorizing the issuance of hundreds of thousands of dollars in district checks to the fictitious bus companies.  

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Lisay allegedly endorsed many of the school district checks before they were deposited into a bank account.  The alleged thefts totaled approximately $229,202 in the Hazlet District and $336,570 in the Piscataway District. 

The two women were released without bail after being processed.  The charges stem from an ongoing investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau North Unit. The state investigation began in April. 

The state attorney general's office said that the alleged theft in Hazlet was detected after Piscataway noticed something unusual, said spokesman Peter Aseltine.  The Hazlet investigation "was prompted by irregularities or inaccuracies in Piscataway," he said. Hazlet did conduct their own independent audits, he said. 

Superintendent Bernard F. Bragen Jr. issued a statement Thursday afternoon saying that once it was informed of the ongoing investigation, Hazlet hired an outside auditing firm to conduct an independent audit of the entire transportation department. 

"We will continue to work with the Attorney General’s Office in their prosecution of this individual to the full extent of the law," he said. 

School Board President Stephen Willig said the board has filed insurance claims to recuperate the money. 

Pumilia was employed as the “Transportation Manager” for the Hazlet Township School District from 2005-2008.  Board minutes say that in June 2006, she was paid $30,798.

Beginning in 2006, Pumilia allegedly entered a new transportation vendor called “VL Transport” or “Vic Langly” into the district’s computer system. 

She allegedly provided the district with a false state business registration certificate for the company.  

During the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years, Pumilia allegedly authorized a total of approximately $229,202 in purchase orders and payments to VL Transport and Vic Langly.  

The state’s investigation revealed that the company and the individual were fictitious.  In addition, there is no evidence that any transportation services were provided to the district in connection with the payments that were made. 

Pumilia was subsequently employed as the “Supervisor of Transportation” for the Piscataway Township School District from September 2008 through June 2012.  During that period, Pumilia allegedly authorized a total of approximately $336,570 in purchase orders and payments to another purported bus company and proprietor of the company.  

The state’s investigation again revealed that the company and the individual were fictitious, and there is no evidence that any transportation services were provided to the district in connection with the payments made.

Law enforcement agencies were alerted after an employee in the Piscataway School District discovered suspicious invoices and both school districts found irregularities during internal audits.

The Division of Criminal Justice filed a forfeiture action yesterday afternoon in Superior Court in Monmouth County and obtained a court order to seize four bank accounts belonging to the defendants and six motor vehicles, including a classic 1970 Chevrolet Corvette.  It is alleged that the accounts were utilized in the criminal scheme and the vehicles were purchased, at least in part, with stolen funds.

The charges are the result of an ongoing investigation led by Detective Sgt. Fritz Frage and the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption North Unit, and Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Manis of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. 

 Deputy Attorney General Nina Bonner and Detective Melissa Calkin are handling the forfeiture action for the Division of Criminal Justice.

Attorney General Chiesa thanked the Hazlet Township School District and the Piscataway Township School District for their full cooperation in the state’s investigation.  He also thanked the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office for their valuable assistance and cooperation. 

In a press release Thursday, Attorney General Chiesa said, “We allege that this school administrator corruptly stole more than half a million dollars – taxpayer money that should have instead helped these two school districts provide a better education for their young students in this difficult economic climate. We’re aggressively targeting officials who betray the public’s trust and steal taxpayer dollars.”

Stephen J. Taylor, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, was quoted saying, “With millions of dollars being paid each year to outside vendors by New Jersey school districts, we must remain vigilant to ensure that the payments represent legitimate expenses for necessary goods and services."

“It’s alarming when we find overbilling by unscrupulous vendors, but it’s even more troubling to find embezzlement by a school district insider involved in the contracting process, as alleged here.” 

State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes said, “There were many people affected by this alleged theft. The taxpayers whose hard earned money funded the transportation to the districts and the young children who depended on these valuable services. Due to the efforts of the State Police Official Corruption Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice, she will be held accountable for her actions.”

The second-degree theft charge carries a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000.  The complaints are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.  Because the defendants are charged with an indictable offense, this matter will be presented to a state grand jury for potential indictment.

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

bud October 11, 2012 at 04:13 PM
"Never steal anything SMALL!!!"--Willie Sutton, famous bank robber.
Ellen Montemarano Lomonaco October 11, 2012 at 04:17 PM
I find it very disturbing that Hazzlet school district didn't notice that $229K went to a vendor that didn't exist. If the other school district hadn't caught, we probably would have never know.
valerie October 11, 2012 at 04:54 PM
Is it me or is this women actually smiling in her mug shot picture?
diana October 11, 2012 at 08:56 PM
I agree with you. NO one audits these expenditures?
Rich Jaeger October 11, 2012 at 09:12 PM
she will not do more than 60 days in jail.
Sal October 11, 2012 at 09:36 PM
In both the Hazlet Twp. and Piscataway Twp case___it is the Superintendent of Schools in both of those districts that was negligent in doing his job. How freaking lazy are these Supt. of Schools??? How hard is it to look over the bank statements to see what checks were written and paid to pay whom for what? Why aren't ALL invoices from EVERY dept. in these schools being submitted to the Office of the Superintendents of Schools office for payment? Fraud like this ONLY takes place when the superiors of people like her are grossly negligent in doing their jobs. It makes me wonder how many other departments heads in these towns are allowed to issue checks and who is looking over their shoulders???
Sal October 11, 2012 at 09:42 PM
PS: In addition to the State Attorney's General going after her bank accounts and cars___he should also go after her home or at least file a lien against it until the case goes to court. I have no idea of how she was released "Without Bail" when minor criminals that steal far less always have to post bail. Big crooks getting released without bail in NJ___while little criminals sit in the County Jail makes no sense to me.
NJ68 October 12, 2012 at 05:50 PM
Wonder why NJ has the highest state taxes. Fire all these overpaid administrators and hire private companies that can be held accountable and cost half of what these administrators are paid in salary and penisions.
Good Neighbor October 12, 2012 at 09:25 PM
Shouldn't the Hazlet's school administration's CPA be held accountable for this? Isn't that his job to balance the school budget and add and subtract? No wonder why people are moving out of Hazlet. They keep raising taxes. And, by the way, the taxes are high
Good Neighbor October 12, 2012 at 09:29 PM
I am puzzled how this lady was able to get her hands on so much money. Someone should pay and it shouldn't be the taxpayers of the towns the money was stolen from. It should be the people who did not perform their jobs properly. Howe could that much money go astray? It beats me...
Good Neighbor October 12, 2012 at 09:30 PM
Who was her supervisor/boss?
bob smith October 12, 2012 at 10:56 PM
I agree! BY THE WAY, DR. WILLIAM O. GEORGE III WAS SUPERINTENDENT OF HAZLET AT THAT TIME. NOW HE IS SUPER AT MIDDLETOWN! HE BETTER BE QUESTIONED...AND BETTER BE MORE DILIGENT AT HIS NEW POSITION!
Carol October 13, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Dr. George may be off in Middletown but the business administrator is still the same. Sounds like a business administrator was not doing their job supervising. Hazlet is a small town with a small number of bus companies that are in use in the community. How could there not be a set of procedures in place that prevent this type of theft. Seems like a little more oversight and supervision needs to be in place. It would also appear that this would have gone totally unnoticed if someone's curiosity had not been followed up in Parsippany.
Good Neighbor October 13, 2012 at 01:52 AM
where is the business administrator's accountability? that person should be reprimanded too.
Good Neighbor October 13, 2012 at 01:55 AM
Thanks for the FYI Carol. Anyone directly supervising this group of thieves should be prosecuted too.
Rina Messina October 13, 2012 at 10:00 PM
What was Chris Mullins doing at the time? I truly believe the same thing the business administrator should be accountable as well. The people of Hazlet need to go to the next board meeting and speak there mind.
Bob Stevens October 14, 2012 at 04:56 PM
Doesn't the Board of Education award contracts to bus companies for each route in the beginning of each school year? If so, this ficticious company wasn't one of the ones that had a contract to work for Hazlet. The obvious next question has to be: How did a bus comapny that never bidded for bus routes get paid for bus routes that it was never contracted for?
Good Neighbor October 15, 2012 at 12:20 PM
Someone should ask the Hazlet township business administrator that at the next hazlet township board of education meeting.
George Clark October 16, 2012 at 02:12 AM
this is why privacy of bank accounts and even possessions will be watched by big brother very soon, as they should have been long ago. Cash may go away completely because cartels of all sorts can transport and hide it from authorities trying to keep control of this whorish and adulterous race called man. You all fear big brother and his mark of the beast for this very reason. Something must be done to control ourselves because we can't do it for ourselves.
middletown October 16, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Now Middletown has the person in charge when this went down, lets see what happens here.
Good Neighbor October 25, 2012 at 01:42 AM
Does anyone know if this was addressed at the Hazlet Board of Ed meeting the other day?
Christina Johnson (Editor) October 25, 2012 at 03:15 AM
Only one Hazlet resident addressed the BOE at the public meeting on the ex-employee theft. In her remarks, she said she was angry and disappointed school officials did not catch the alleged misconduct and expressed concern that the district insurance policy might not cover a claim for an event that occurred several years ago. She was loudly applauded for her comments. But there was no comment from the superintendent, business administrator nor elected board members in response.

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