HACKENSACK, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — A former public works inspector in Ridgewood was sentenced to five years’ probation Monday after admitting stealing $460,000 in quarters over a period of two years.
New Jersey Superior Court Judge Patrick Roma decided to spare defendant Thomas Rica a prison sentence.
Rica had worked in Ridgewood for 10 years before his arrest in January 2013. He had pleaded guilty in March to four counts of theft as part of a plea deal that called for probation and restitution.
Rica lost his job after his arrest for taking $500 in coins from the town’s parking meter collection room. Investigators later determined that he stole $460,000 overall.
The Record reported that Rica repeatedly apologized for his actions during the sentencing hearing held Wednesday.
“I am sorry for what I have done,” the Hawthorne resident told Thomas Rica told Judge Patrick Roma. “I am very sorry. I’m… I’m just sorry.”
Under the plea deal, Rica will pay back a little more than half of what he admits he stole. Some critics have said Rica should have received some prison time and paid back all the money he stole, but Bergen County prosecutors have defended the deal given to Rica.
Assistant County Prosecutor Daniel Keitel told the newspaper that the deal took months to negotiate and will “get as much of the money back to the public as quickly as possible.” Had the state tried Rica for second-degree theft, Keitel said he may have faced five years behind bars, but would not have been legally bound to return any of the stolen money.
Rica’s lawyer, Robert Galuntucci, handed Keitel a check during Wednesday’s proceedings for $64,337.55 _ his client’s initial down payment.
The deal calls for Rica, who also forfeited his $30,000 pension, to pay the village $2,000 a month for five years, for a total of $120,000. Ridgewood will also keep $4,000 it seized during a search of Rica’s home following his arrest.
That puts Rica’s restitution at just under $250,000.
If Rica misses a payment or is charged with another crime within those five years, he could get a prison term ranging from three to five years.
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