TRENTON - Attorney General
Anne Milgram and Criminal Justice Director
Deborah L. Gramiccioni announced that a former
employee of the City of Newark was sentenced
to prison today for conspiring to steal hundreds
of thousands of dollars from the federally
funded Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition
program by issuing fraudulent vouchers.
According to Director Gramiccioni,
Charles Brown, 41, of Newark, was sentenced
to eight years in state prison by Superior
Court Judge Michael A. Petrolle in Essex County.
Brown pleaded guilty on Dec. 5 to second-degree
official misconduct. He admitted that he used
his position as a senior clerk for the Newark
WIC Program to issue thousands of fake vouchers.
An ongoing investigation by
the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption
Bureau revealed that between Dec. 1, 2005,
and Jan. 31, 2007, Brown and others conspired
to issue approximately $1 million in fraudulent
vouchers, which were deposited into the bank
accounts of more than 20 WIC-authorized vendors
throughout New Jersey.
Brown has been in jail since
May of last year, when he was arrested in
the investigation. The investigation revealed
that Brown supplied fraudulent vouchers, most
of which were issued in fictitious names,
to the owner of a small grocery store in Newark.
Those vouchers and other fraudulent vouchers
were sold by the stack to various vendors
in Essex, Union and Camden counties.
On Friday, another former
senior clerk in the Newark WIC program, Wyetta
Judson, 38, of Newark, pleaded guilty to second-degree
official misconduct in connection with the
conspiracy. The state will recommend that
she also be sentenced to state prison. Second-degree
crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years
in state prison and a criminal fine of up
“It is shocking that
these government employees used the authority
entrusted to them to steal from a program
such as WIC, which serves the basic nutritional
needs of some of our most vulnerable children,”
said Attorney General Milgram. “Our
ongoing investigation has uncovered a conspiracy
to defraud this federally funded program of
approximately $1 million.”
The investigation began when
the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior
Services and the Newark Department of Health
and Human Services alerted the Division of
Criminal Justice to suspected thefts of vouchers
from the Newark WIC Program.
Deputy Attorney General Michael
Monahan is prosecuting the case and handled
today’s sentencing. The investigation
is being conducted by Detective Michael Behar
and Sgt. David Salzmann of the Division of
Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, with the
assistance of Administrative Analyst Kathleen
WIC is a federally funded
program, administered by the New Jersey Department
of Health and Senior Services, that provides
low-income women who are pregnant or breast
feeding and guardians of children up to age
5 with vouchers to purchase nutritional necessities,
including baby formula, milk, orange juice
and cereal. The vouchers can be redeemed at
any store approved as a WIC vendor for food
items specifically listed on the voucher.
Once redeemed, the vendor completes the voucher
by filling in the cost of the product supplied.
The Newark WIC Program is one of 18 WIC programs
in New Jersey.
began when the state Department of Health
and Senior Services noted certain suspicious
trends in the issuance of vouchers by the
Newark WIC Program,” said Director Gramiccioni.
“State and city officials subsequently
alerted the Division of Criminal Justice.
Investigators in our Corruption Bureau have
worked diligently to uncover the full scope
of this fraud, analyzing voluminous records
and conducting numerous interviews.”
On May 15, 2008, the Division
of Criminal Justice obtained an indictment
charging Leocadia Cepeda, 38, the owner of
G&S Supermarket on Westminster Avenue
in Elizabeth, with receiving stolen property,
theft by deception, and tampering with public
records or information. The indictment alleged
that between September 2006 and January 2007,
Cepeda, an approved WIC vendor, obtained more
than 500 WIC vouchers that she knew were stolen
and used them to fraudulently collect more
than $25,000 from the state Department of
Health and Senior Services.
Cepeda deposited the vouchers
in a bank account, filling them in with false
information indicating that her store had
supplied nutritional items to WIC participants
when, in fact, no items were supplied. Cepeda
was admitted into the Pre-Trial Intervention
Program on Dec. 17 on the condition that she
pay $25,929 in restitution and cooperate in
the ongoing investigation.
General Milgram and Criminal Justice Director
Gramiccioni noted that the Division of Criminal
Justice - Corruption Bureau has established
a statewide Corruption Tipline: 1-866-TIPS-4CJ.
Additionally, the public can log on to the
Division’s Web page at www.njdcj.org
to report suspected wrongdoing. All information
received through the Division of Criminal
Justice Corruption Tipline or Web page will