Francis X. Gartland admitted in federal court today that while he served as the insurance broker for Toms River Regional Schools he funneled bribes through a series of intermediaries to then-superintendent .
The payments were in excess of $1 million total from 2002-2010, announced the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Gartland, 70, had pleaded not guilty previously and was awaiting trial, scheduled to begin in a week alongside Ritacco, in a 27-count federal indictment that alleged bribery, kickbacks, fraud and tax evasion.
Admitted to Ritacco Payments, Conspiring With Others
The district's former insurance broker pleaded guilty today before U.S. District
Judge Joel A. Pisano in Trenton federal court to charges of mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud the IRS and perjury.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced Gartland's plea. He said Gartland, while insurance broker for the Toms River Regional School District, admitted his role in a scheme to pay bribes and other benefits to the then-superintendent of schools to get and maintain a contract to provide insurance services for the district.
In the court documents and statements released this afternoon, Gartland admitted to his role with co-conspirators who paid $1 million to $2 million in bribes to Ritacco in exchange for inflated insurance contracts from 2002 to 2010, according to Fishman.
The co-conspirators named are Frank D’Alonzo, a former administrator at the Toms River Regional School District, Frank Cotroneo, 61, an insurance broker, and others.
"The payments were made to allow Gartland to obtain and keep the insurance contract with the district," according to a release from Fishman's office announcing the plea.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office:
- Gartland admitted that in 2002, he, Ritacco, Cotroneo, and D’Alonzo agreed to have Ritacco approve a workers’ compensation insurance contract. That contract, between Gartland and the school district, had contract fees that would yield $500,000 to $600,000 per year in excess fees, which would be used to pay bribes and kickbacks to Ritacco.
- Gartland admitted his role in conspiring with Ritacco to defraud the IRS by hiding these bribes and other benefits that were paid to Ritacco, and to other individuals at Ritacco’s direction.
- Gartland admitted he and Ritacco, 65, used a series of shell companies and intermediaries to conceal the payments.
- Gartland admitted to filing fraudulent individual tax returns for tax years 2004 through 2007.
Ritacco Trial Scheduled for April 9
Gartland's sentencing is scheduled for July 9. In Ritacco's trial, jury selection is scheduled to begin April 9 in Trenton.
According to Fishman, the mail fraud to which Gartland pleaded guilty is punishable by up to 20 years in prison; on the conspiracy charges, up to five years in prison; and on the perjury charge, up to five years in prison. All the counts are also punishable by fines of $250,000.
Calls placed to Toms River Regional Schools spokesperson Tammi Millar and Ritacco's attorney William Hughes Jr. were not immediately returned.
U.S. Attorney's Office spokesperson Matthew Reilly would not comment further on how today's guilty plea would impact the coming trial.
"It's not our policy to comment," Reilly said by phone. He said there are no further motions scheduled as part of the court calendar until jury selection begins.
Gartland and Ritacco's respective attorneys previously requested the court sever their charges and try them separately. However the motion to sever was not heard due to illness of Gartland, and according to court documents the joint trial remained with a April 9 start date.
Gartland Admits to Election Fraud
In today's announcement, Gartland also admitted to his role in corruption charges elsewhere.
to a scheme to funnel thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic primary election campaign of Joseph Vas, 57, who was running for Congress in 2006.
Gartland admitted he and co-defendant Thomas O’Leary, the former executive director of the South Amboy Housing Authority, hatched a scheme to provide "straw payments" to the Vas campaign.
Gartland was the insurance broker of record for the City of Perth Amboy, where Vas was mayor, and during that received thousands of dollars in commissions for those insurance contracts. Gartland split those commissions with O'Leary, Fishman said in the release, to "ensure that Gartland maintained the lucrative insurance brokerage representations with the City of Perth Amboy and the Perth Amboy Board of Education."
Pleading Guilty: Another Insurance Broker Admits Funneling Payments
to a related charge in the alleged Gartland-Ritacco scheme.
Amenhauser, 66, admitted he made monthly $3,000 payments to D'Alonzo and $6,000 monthly to Gartland, which Gartland directed him to do, Fishman said.
As a former insurance provider, Amenhauser was pressured by Gartland to make these payments in order for Amenhauser to obtain and maintain his insurance service contract with the Toms River Regional School District, according to the plea.
"Amenhauser made these payments, believing that unless he made them he could not retain his contract with the Toms River school district," according to the indictment.
Amenhauser pleaded guilty March 27 to making false statements to the FBI when questioned about the payments, which occurred in May 2002 after Ritacco hired Amenhauser to provide workers compensation consulting services to Toms River Regional.
Amenhauser awaits sentencing June 26. The charge is punishable by a maximum of five years and fines of $250,000.