– Attorney General Anne Milgram announced
that a Newark woman was sentenced today for
stealing funds from the Homelessness Prevention
Program administered by the state Department
of Community Affairs.
to Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni,
Joana Pereira, 27, of Newark, formerly known
as Joana Rodrigues, was sentenced to two years
of probation, conditioned on her serving 364
days in the county jail, by Superior Court
Judge Robert Billmeier in Mercer County. She
pleaded guilty in February 2007 to theft by
pleading guilty, Pereira, a landlord, admitted
she submitted four fraudulent applications
for grants totaling $14,963 under the Homelessness
Prevention Program. She submitted them with
one of her tenants, Tashime Mitchell, who
shared the proceeds with her. Three applications
listed Pereira as the landlord and listed
either Mitchell, a relative of Mitchell, or
a fictitious name as the tenant. The fourth
listed Pereira’s boyfriend, Vitor Pedreiras,
as the landlord and falsely listed a relative
of his as the tenant.
Oct. 29, Pedreiras, 32, of Hillside, was also
sentenced by Judge Billmeier to two years
of probation, conditioned on him serving 364
days in the county jail. He pleaded guilty
to theft by deception in August for assisting
Pereira in submitting the fraudulent applications.
He was required to forfeit his job as a Hillside
police officer and is permanently barred from
public employment in New Jersey. Pereira and
Pedreiras were ordered to pay restitution
to the Department of Community Affairs of
false applications were submitted to Robin
Wheeler-Hicks, 50, of Elizabeth, who was formerly
the Union County senior field representative
for the Department of Community Affairs with
responsibility for processing Homelessness
Prevention Program cases in the county. Wheeler-Hicks
pleaded guilty to bribery and theft by deception
in March 2006 for stealing more than $800,000
from the program. She has not been sentenced
Homelessness Prevention Program 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 up to two months
rent and security deposit for a new residence
if they have been forced out of their home.
36, of Irvington, and Renita Livingston, 36,
of Hillside, previously pleaded guilty to
assisting Wheeler-Hicks in submitting numerous
false Homelessness Prevention Program 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.
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.
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 the investigation.
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 sentencing. 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.