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For Immediate Release:
For Further Information:
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July 28, 2010

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

Media Inquiries-
Paul Loriquet or
Peter Aseltine
609-292-4791
Citizen Inquiries-
609-292-4925

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Third Former Local Administrator of NJ Home Energy Assistance Program Indicted for Allegedly Defrauding State Program
New indictment charging theft of $28,200 obtained in ongoing investigations of fraud in program

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TRENTON – Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced that a Paulsboro woman who formerly worked as a local administrator of the New Jersey Home Energy Assistance (HEA) Program was indicted today with two men on charges they stole $28,200 from the program by filing fraudulent applications to obtain benefits.

Two other women who were employed as local administrators of the HEA Program previously pleaded guilty to official misconduct in connection with fraud involving the program and face or have been sentenced to state prison sentences. In addition, a heating oil supplier was sentenced to prison as a result of the ongoing investigations by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, conducted with assistance from the Department of Community Affairs (DCA).

According to Director Taylor, Denise Nicole Johnson, 36, of Paulsboro, was charged today in a state grand jury indictment with official misconduct (2nd degree). In addition, Johnson, her boyfriend, Anthony Lamont Taylor, 34, of Paulsboro, and her half-brother, Vincent Lipsey, 30, of Woodbury, were charged with theft by deception, misapplication of entrusted property and property of government, financial facilitation of criminal activity (money laundering), tampering with public records or information (all 3rd degree), and falsifying records (4th degree).

“This is the fourth case that we have filed in the last twelve months as a result of our ongoing investigations into fraud against the New Jersey Home Energy Assistance Program,” said Attorney General Dow. “By vigorously investigating and prosecuting these cases, we are working to prevent misappropriation of taxpayer dollars and ensure that program funds are used to heat the homes of vulnerable residents who are rightful beneficiaries of the program.”

“Through the exemplary work of our investigators and attorneys, we are continuing to follow the evidence and build strong cases charging fraud against this program,” said Director Taylor.

Deputy Attorneys General David M. Fritch and Robert Czepiel presented the case to the grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.

From February 2005 through September 2006, Johnson was employed as an HEA aide in the Paulsboro Office of Tri-County Community Action, a nonprofit contracted by the DCA to administer the HEA program in Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem counties.

Johnson, Taylor and Lipsey allegedly stole a total of approximately $28,200 in HEA funds between March 1, 2006 and August 31, 2009, during and after Johnson’s employment at Tri-County. The thefts involved 11 HEA applications, which variously included false information about the identities of applicants, where the applicants resided, their dependents, and household income. Johnson allegedly received approximately $22,905 on nine applications. It is alleged that Taylor received $2,648 on one application for which he submitted false information, and Lipsey also received $2,648 on a single application for which he submitted false information.

Johnson is charged with official misconduct because, while employed by Tri-County Community Action, she created two fraudulent applications by entering false information into the DCA benefits system which generated $2,924 in fraudulent financial benefits for herself.

The defendants allegedly accepted two-party HEA benefit checks that were payable only to individuals and their home heating suppliers. The checks were to be used for the sole purpose of procuring home heating fuel and could be deposited only into the account of a home heating supplier. However, the defendants allegedly exchanged and cashed the benefit checks through third parties for cash or checks payable solely to each of them individually.

It is alleged that some of the HEA checks were exchanged for cash or company checks from Harris Fuel Oil of Paulsboro. Thomas J. Harris, 66, of Woolwich, the owner and sole proprietor of Harris Fuel Oil, pleaded guilty on Aug. 10, 2009 in a related investigation to second-degree charges of 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 was sentenced to four years in state prison on June 17 by Superior Court Judge M. Christine Allen-Jackson in Gloucester County. He was also ordered to pay restitution.

Today’s indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Pedro J.Jimenez, Jr., who assigned the case to Gloucester County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date to answer the charges. The indictment is posted with this release at www.njpublicsafety.com.

Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a $150,000 fine, while third-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Fourth-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine. The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.

In related cases, Constance Campbell, 24, of Chester, Pa., was sentenced to five years in state prison by Judge Allen-Jackson on July 19, after pleading guilty to a charge of second-degree official misconduct. Campbell admitted she used her former position as an HEA manager for Tri-County to process false HEA applications for herself and five family members, through which they obtained $24,010 in benefits. The family members were indicted with Campbell on Aug. 17, 2009 and also pleaded guilty. A third former local HEA administrator, Nicole Victor, 37, of Paulsboro, pleaded guilty on July 19 to second-degree official misconduct for defrauding the state program of $11,705 by filing false applications to obtain benefits for herself. The state will also recommend that Victor be sentenced to five years in prison when she is sentenced on Oct. 15. Victor, Campbell and Campbell’s relatives were all ordered to pay restitution.

The investigations have been 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 Department of Community Affairs and local agencies contracted by the DCA. The 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 Johnson, Campbell and Victor cases involve both programs. The Harris case involved the LIHEAP program.

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