Razor wire prison fence
Razor wire prison fence

A former payroll clerk for the Jersey City Department of Recreation was sentenced to prison today in connection with a scheme to inflate payroll hours for certain former part-time and seasonal employees who were her relatives or personal associates.

According to Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin, Angela Rivera, 42, of Jersey City, who formerly worked as a payroll clerk and senior analyst for the Jersey City Department of Recreation, stole $80,553 between December 2016 and February 2018.

Rivera altered timekeeping spreadsheets for the employees involved, causing paychecks to be issued that reflected additional hours the employees did not actually work. A number of those paychecks were deposited into Rivera’s personal account after she forged the employees’ signatures to endorse the checks over to her. Others were deposited into accounts controlled by the employees named on the checks.

Rivera was sentenced to three years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Vincent J. Militello in Hudson County. Rivera had pleaded guilty on January 27, 2021 to a charge of second-degree theft by unlawful taking. She is required to pay full restitution to the city and is permanently barred from public employment.

Rivera had been charged in an investigation by attorneys and detectives in the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA), which began with a referral from the Jersey City Department of Recreation.  When the recreation department initially learned of the alleged misconduct, they completed an internal audit and referred the matter to OPIA.

“Government officials and employees have a duty to handle public funds with honesty and integrity,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin. “If they breach that duty, we will hold them accountable.”

“The Office of Public Integrity and Accountability is working hard to deter this type of dishonest conduct and enforce a culture of integrity in government,” said OPIA Executive Director Thomas Eicher. “We urge anyone with information about official misconduct and abuse of public resources to contact us confidentially. We’ll pursue all leads to ensure that those responsible are investigated and prosecuted.”

Four relatives and associates of Rivera’s who allegedly took part in the scheme were charged by summons on January 6, 2020 with theft by unlawful taking for allegedly depositing paychecks into accounts they controlled that they knew reflected work hours that had been fraudulently inflated by Rivera. On Jan. 27, 2021, the court admitted them into the Pre-Trial Intervention program, subject to payment of full restitution. If those defendants successfully complete PTI, the charges against them will be dismissed.

OPIA has a toll-free Tipline 1-844-OPIA-TIPS for the public to report corruption.  The AG’s Office has an Anti-Corruption Reward Program that offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption.  Information is posted here.

Aaron Morrill

Aaron is a writer, musician and lawyer. Aaron attended Berklee College of Music and the State University of New York at Purchase. Aaron served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Ecuador. He received a J.D....