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For Immediate Release:
For Further Information:
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April 9, 2010

Office of The Attorney General
- Paula T. Dow, Attorney General
Division of Criminal Justice
- Stephen J. Taylor, Director

Peter Aseltine
609-292-4791

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3 Pennsylvania Residents Sentenced for Assisting Local Manager of NJ Home Energy Assistance Program to Defraud Program

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TRENTON – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that three Pennsylvania residents were sentenced today for assisting a family member who was a local administrator of the New Jersey Home Energy Assistance (HEA) Program to steal from the state program.

The administrator, Constance Campbell, 24, of Chester, Pa., pleaded guilty to second-degree official misconduct on Feb. 26 for stealing $24,000 from the program.

According to Director Taylor, Campbell’s sister, Patsy Campbell, 30, of Chester, Pa., pleaded guilty to one count of third-degree misapplication of entrusted property or property of government and was sentenced today to three years of probation by Superior Court Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson in Gloucester County. She is responsible, along with her sister, for paying restitution of $4,710 to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, which administers the HEA Program.

In addition, their brother, Dennis Campbell, 38, of Philadelphia, and his wife, Hollyann Allen, 37, were also sentenced today by Judge Allen-Jackson. They both pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by deception on December 14, 2009. Dennis Campbell was sentenced to up to 364 days in the county jail as a condition of two years of probation, and Allen was sentenced to three years of probation. Together, they must pay back $5,296 along with Constance Campbell.

Two other sisters, Denise Campbell, 36, of Penns Grove, and Priscilla Campbell, 22, of Paulsboro, pleaded guilty to third-degree misapplication of entrusted property or property of government and were admitted into the Pre-Trial Intervention program on Feb. 26. These two sisters were ordered to pay combined restitution of $9,431, along with Constance Campbell.

Constance Campbell is scheduled to be sentenced on May 27 by Judge Allen-Jackson. The state will recommend a sentence of five years in state prison. She is responsible for payment of full restitution of $24,000 to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs.

Deputy Attorneys General David M. Fritch and Robert Czepiel have prosecuted the case. Deputy Attorney General Fritch represented the state at the sentencing hearing today.

The defendants were indicted by a state grand jury on Aug. 17, 2009. An investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, conducted with assistance from the Department of Community Affairs, revealed that Constance Campbell used her position as an HEA manager for Tri-County Community Action to process false HEA applications for herself and the five family members who were charged. Tri-Community Action is a nonprofit contracted by the state to administer the HEA program in Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties.

Constance and her family members received a total of $24,010 in benefits for which they were not eligible, including approximately $15,000 in HEA checks intended for heating oil purchases. They traded the checks for cash from a Paulsboro-based heating oil supplier, Thomas J. Harris, 66, of Woolwich, owner and sole proprietor of Harris Fuel Oil.

Thomas Harris pleaded guilty on Aug. 10, 2009 to second-degree charges of financial facilitation of criminal activity (money laundering) and misapplication of entrusted property and property of government. He admitted that he defrauded the HEA Program of $400,000 by offering low-income beneficiaries of the program cash for their state-issued assistance checks instead of fuel to heat their homes. He faces four years in state prison and must pay restitution of $152,111, representing the total proceeds of the HEA checks he fraudulently acquired minus the amounts he paid to the beneficiaries from those proceeds. His sentencing is scheduled for May 27.

The charges in the Campbell and Harris cases stem from investigations that were conducted by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau with assistance from the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs. The investigations were conducted and coordinated for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau by Lt. Keith Lerner, Sgt. Robert Ferriozzi, Detective Andrea Salvatini, Detective Anthony Luyber, Deputy Chief of Detectives Neal Cohen, Analyst Alison Callery and Deputy Attorneys General Fritch and Czepiel.

The HEA Program is administered by the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs and local agencies contracted by DCA. The New Jersey HEA Program encompasses two separate programs, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and Universal Service Fund Program (USF). The LIHEAP program provides direct financial assistance to beneficiaries in the form of payments to utility companies and to fuel vendors to help low-income households meet the cost of home heating and medically necessary cooling. The USF program assists such households by providing credits against their natural gas and electric bills. The Harris plea involved the LIHEAP program. The Campbell pleas involved both programs.

Constance Campbell was an office manager/HEA manager for Tri-County’s Salem County and Gloucester County offices. Her duties included processing HEA benefit applications. The state’s investigation revealed that, between January 2007 and June 2009, Constance Campbell created fraudulent accounts for herself and each of the indicted family members, none of whom were eligible for benefits. Four, including Constance, didn’t even reside in New Jersey. Some accounts used the family member’s name, but others used the name of another person or a fictitious name to hide the beneficiary’s true identity and to allow these individuals to collect financial benefits from multiple fraudulent benefit applications. Certain applications also deliberately understated household income or included additional fictitious dependents in order to increase the amount of benefits paid out on the application.

Where a false name was used, the family member’s name would be listed on the account as the authorized representative of the household, so checks would be payable to the family member. The four defendants who did not reside in New Jersey used the address of a New Jersey resident family member or Post Office box in New Jersey to receive the benefit checks and to hide the beneficiary’s out-of-state residency. The sisters who did live in New Jersey, Denise and Priscilla, received USF benefits in the form of credits to their utility accounts, in addition to LIHEAP checks.

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