News

Mother-Daughter Pair Accused In Half-Million Dollar Check Scam Involving NJ School Districts

AG: Defendant Wrote Checks To Fake Bus Companies, Had Mom Deposit Them
Michelle Pumilia (L), Virginia Lisay (R) (credit: Handout)

Michelle Pumilia (L), Virginia Lisay (R) (credit: Handout)

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — A mother-daughter duo has been arrested in a scheme to steal big bucks from two New Jersey school districts.

With districts hard-pressed for every penny, the school districts of Hazlet and Piscataway had more than a half-million dollars siphoned away in a creative check scam.

“Our administration and board of education is outraged by the actions,” said Interim Piscataway Superintendent Teresa Rafferty.

The former transportation head for the two districts, 39-year-old Michelle Pumilia, has been charged in the theft along with her 68-year-old mother, Virginia Lisay. They live together in Union Beach.

When asked by CBS 2’s John Slattery what she thought about the charges being against her, Lisay responded “Not much and don’t want to talk about it.”

Pumilia has been charged with taking more than $565,000 by issuing checks to fictitious bus companies, with her mother endorsing the checks for deposit into their own accounts.

“Invoices were submitted. The school, thinking that they were legitimate because they were coming from the supervisor, acted on them, paid them in check. Those checks, we allege, were then turned over to the supervisor’s mother, who endorsed the checks, deposited them and they split the proceeds up between them,” New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa told 1010 WINS.

Discrepancies were initially spotted by another employee. It is alleged the pair swindled the Hazlet district out of $229,202 and the Piscataway district out of $336,570.

“$336,000 is not something we can afford to lose,” Rafferty said.

If the district’s insurance covers the loss, taxpayers will be reimbursed in the form of tax relief. The court will seek restitution if the pair is found guilty.

“This is a really terrible thing to have going on. It undermines public confidence in our government and it also diminishes the resources that these schools have, which are precious to start with,” Chiesa said.

A Superior Court judge ordered the duo’s four bank accounts frozen and six cars were seized, including a 1970 Corvette.

Share your thoughts in the comments section below…