Reporting Christine Sloan
TOMS RIVER, N.J. (CBS 2 / WCBS 880) – There were stunning corruption charges levied Thursday against the man in charge of New Jersey’s fourth largest school district.
The Toms River schools superintendent surrendered to authorities to face fraud and bribery charges over an alleged insurance scheme.
CBS 2′s Christine Sloan reports Michael Ritacco was charged with taking bribes and kickbacks, $1 million worth, said the feds.
“Over a 10-year period Ritacco received between $1 million and $2 million in bribes and kickbacks from Gartlandt, much of it in cash, the typical currency of corruption and others in payments to third parties at Ritacco’s direction,” a federal official said.
“Mr. Ritacco categorically denies and wrongdoing. And he is here to fight these charges and he will fight these charges and looks forward to his day in court, because, simply, the government is wrong in this case,” said William Hughes Jr., Ritacco’s attorney.
Ritacco, who walked out on $1 million bail, has been the superintendent of Toms River Regional School District for almost two decades. In town they even named a center after him. But back in April the feds raided his home in Seaside Park, taking away boxes and driving off with his Mercedes Benz.
The feds moved in again Thursday morning after a school district supervisor and an insurance broker this week admitted being part of a scheme to inflate school insurance charges and kickback part of the money to Ritacco as bribes.
When asked if Ritacco will resign, his attorney said, “We’re having discussions. No comment.”
Ritacco could face up to 20 years behind bars if convicted.
The Toms River Regional School District planed to meet Thursday night to discus Ritacco’s position.