The man accused alongside former schools superintendent Michael J. Ritacco in an alleged kickback scheme and bribery corruption is asking to testify in support of Ritacco, and says he is innocent.
Francis X. Gartland, the Toms River Regional School district’s former insurance broker, wants to testify at trial that he never paid bribes to Ritacco. The attorneys for both Gartland and Ritacco are asking to sever the co-defendants, and the request will be heard today in a pre-trial motion before Judge Joel Pisano.
Gartland and Ritacco were both indicted Oct. 2010 and are awaiting trial April 3. Both have pleaded not guilty to the 27-count federal indictment.
The indictment alleges two counts charging separate conspiracies to defraud the IRS and seven counts of making and subscribing to false federal personal income tax returns. The charges include the tax years of 2004 through 2006 for Ritacco and 2004 through 2007 for Gartland.
The initial indictment, returned Oct. 19, contained 18 total counts of mail and wire fraud, travel and use of facilities in interstate commerce to promote bribery, and bribery in connection with a local government agency receiving federal funds. U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said payments totaled $2 million over the years in question.
Today in federal court, the defense will ask Pisano to grant a severance to permit Gartland to testify on Ritacco’s behalf.
Gartland will “deny that he ever paid, or intended to pay, Ritacco with money or other things of value in exchange for insurance business,” according to court documents filed by Gartland’s attorney.
“These allegations are wholly untrue, and I wish to present testimony concerning my interactions and business dealings with each of the four individuals identified in the Government’s indictment, three of whom I understand will be testifying against Mr. Ritacco,” said Gartland in the request, filed on Dec. 27, 2011.
Gartland is seeking to testify that payments to the men named as intermediaries in the indictment — Frank D’Alonzo, Frank Cotroneo and another intermediary — were not bribes for Ritacco. While D'Alonzo and Cotroneo are planned to testify against Ritacco, Gartland is seeking to counter their testimoney, according to the court documents.
"I am able to discuss what these payments were for and why they were not, nor ever intended to be, a benefit in any way to Michael Ritacco," wrote Gartland in the severance request documents.
The oral arguments for the pre-trial motion was originally scheduled for earlier this month but was rescheduled to 9:30 a.m. today, Feb. 29.