Judge Sentences Tearful Ritacco to 11 Plus Years in Prison
The former superintendent for the Toms River Regional School District was sentenced today to 135 months in prison for taking bribes to influence school district insurance contracts, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Michael J. Ritacco, 66, of Seaside Park, N.J., previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Joel A. Pisano to a Superseding Indictment charging him with mail fraud and conspiracy to defraud the IRS. Judge Pisano imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court. Ritacco will begin serving his sentence immediately.
“Today’s sentence is a just punishment for Ritacco, a public official who enriched himself at the expense of the Toms River citizens,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “By accepting bribes of more than a million dollars and cheating on his taxes, he betrayed the trust of the taxpayers, students, parents, and teachers of that school district.”
“Michael Ritacco was entrusted by the public to oversee and administer one of New Jersey’s largest school districts, and consequently help oversee the education and welfare of the community’s children,” FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward said. “Instead of embracing this responsibility, he chose to leverage his position to engage in illegal activity in which he received cash and benefits in excess of $1 million. It is yet another example of a community leader placing self-interest above those he represents.”
“Public officials hold positions of trust in the eyes of the public. That trust is broken when these officials commit crimes,” Victor W. Lessoff, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation, Newark Field Office, said. “Today’s sentencing of Mr. Ritacco shows that public officials do not get a free pass to ignore our tax laws and IRS-Criminal Investigation will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to investigate public officials who think otherwise.”
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: From 2002 to April 2010, Ritacco accepted between $1 million and $2 million in bribes and other benefits from co-schemers Francis X. Gartland, 71, the former insurance broker for the Toms River Regional School District; Frank D’Alonzo, 55, a former administrator at the Toms River Regional School District; and Frank Cotroneo, 62, an insurance broker, and others. The bribes and other benefits were made in return for Ritacco’s official assistance to Gartland and other co-schemers in obtaining and maintaining insurance business with the Toms River
Regional School District. Ritacco also admitted that in 2002, he, Gartland, Cotroneo, and D’Alonzo agreed to have Ritacco approve a workers’ compensation insurance contract between Gartland and the school district, which yielded approximately $500,000 to $600,000 annually in excess fees, with such proceeds to be used to make hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to Ritacco.
To conceal this fraudulent scheme from the Toms River Regional School District Board, as well as the IRS, Ritacco and his co-schemers agreed to use middlemen, shell companies, sham consulting contracts, and third-party payments, to secretly pass hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash bribes and other payments to Ritacco.
Ritacco also admitted to filing fraudulent tax returns for tax years 2004 through 2006, and to conspiring with Gartland to evade Ritacco’s federal income taxes from approximately 2002 to 2010.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Pisano sentenced Ritacco to three years of supervised release and fined him a total of $100,000. A restitution hearing will be held within 90 days.
Gartland pleaded guilty on April 2, 2012 to charges of mail fraud, separate conspiracies to defraud the IRS and the United States government, and perjury. He will be sentenced at a date to be determined later.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ward, and IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff, for the investigation leading to today’s sentence.