- Attorney General Anne Milgram announced
that a Hillside police officer pleaded guilty
today to stealing funds from the Homelessness
Prevention Program administered by the state
Department of Community Affairs.
According to Criminal Justice
Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni, Vitor “Victor”
Pedreiras, 32, of Hillside, pleaded guilty
to third-degree theft by deception before
Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier in Mercer
County. The charge was contained in an Aug.
14, 2007 state grand jury indictment.
Judge Billmeier scheduled
sentencing for Oct. 29. The state will recommend
a sentence of 364 days in county jail as a
condition of a term of probation. The judge
today signed an order removing Pedreiras from
his job as a police officer and permanently
barring him from public employment. He had
been suspended by the police department since
the indictment was returned.
In pleading guilty, Pedreiras
admitted that he falsely submitted - and assisted
his girlfriend in falsely submitting - four
fraudulent applications for grants totaling
$14,963 under the Homelessness Prevention
Program. Pedreiras’ girlfriend, Joana
Pereira, 27, of Newark, formerly known as
Joana Rodrigues, pleaded guilty on Feb. 21,
2007 to charges of third-degree theft by deception.
Under their plea agreements, Pedreiras and
Pereira are required to pay restitution to
the Department of Community Affairs of $14,963.
Pereira, a landlord, admitted
she submitted the four fraudulent HPP applications
with one of her tenants, Tashime Mitchell,
35, of Irvington, who shared the proceeds
with her. Three applications listed Joana
Pereira as landlord and listed as tenant either
Mitchell, a relative of Mitchell, or a fictitious
person. The fourth listed Vitor Pedreiras
as landlord and a relative of his as the tenant.
Pereira is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge
Billmeier on Sept. 3.
The false applications were
submitted to Robin Wheeler-Hicks. Wheeler-Hicks,
50, of Elizabeth, who was formerly the DCA-Union
County senior field representative who had
responsibility for processing HPP cases in
the county, pleaded guilty in March 2006 to
stealing more than $866,000 from the Homelessness
Prevention Program. She is also scheduled
to be sentenced by Judge Billmeier on Sept.
3. The state will recommend that she be sentenced
to seven years in state prison.
The Homelessness Prevention
Program (HPP) provides grants to eligible
individuals and families who, through no fault
of their own, are in jeopardy of becoming
homeless. It provides money to pay rent to
keep a family in a current home, and provides
applicants with two months rent and security
deposit for a new residence if they have been
forced out of their home.
Mitchell and Renita Livingston,
35, of Hillside, previously pleaded guilty
to assisting Wheeler-Hicks in submitting numerous
false HPP applications. Mitchell pleaded guilty
to bribery and was sentenced on Nov. 3, 2006
to five years in prison. Livingston pleaded
guilty to conspiracy and was sentenced on
Dec. 15, 2006 to three years in prison. Mitchell
was ordered to pay $29,000 in restitution,
and Livingston, $10,500.
The charges resulted from
an investigation by the Division of Criminal
Justice and New Jersey State Police. Nine
other defendants have pleaded guilty, including
two former DCA employees who received probation
and four corporations. All of the defendants
were required to pay restitution to DCA.
The Department of Community
Affairs alerted the Division of Criminal Justice
when program officials uncovered questionable
applications and transactions involving the
Homelessness Prevention Program in Union County.
The DCA provided administrative resources
and investigative assistance to the Division
of Criminal Justice and State Police throughout
Deputy Attorney General Anthony
Picione, Deputy Chief of the Division of Criminal
Justice Corruption Bureau, and Deputy Attorney
General David Fritch prosecuted the case and
represented the state at the guilty plea hearing.
The investigation was conducted for the DCJ
Corruption Bureau by Sgt. Joseph Caloiaro,
Sgt. Rob Feriozzi, Detective Anthony Luyber,
Detective Kiersten Pentony, Civil Investigator
Wayne Cummings, and Analyst Alison Callery.
It was conducted for the New Jersey State
Police by Detective Sgt. Dustin Lesnever,
Detective Sgt. Gerald Nachurski and Detective
Sgt. Gregory Shawaryn.
General Milgram noted that the Division of
Criminal Justice has established a toll-free
Corruption Tipline for the public to confidentially
report corruption, financial crime and other
illegal activities: 1-866-TIPS-4CJ.
The public also can confidentially report
suspected wrongdoing online at www.njdcj.org.