The former Transportation Manager/Supervisor for the Piscataway Township and Hazlet Township School Districts was sentenced to prison today for stealing $565,772 from the two districts by authorizing payments to fictitious bus companies for transportation services that were never provided to the districts, Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced today.
Michelle Pumilia, 40, of Union Beach, was sentenced to five years in state prison without possibility of parole by Superior Court Judge Bradley J. Ferencz in Middlesex County, according to a press release issued by the Office of the Attorney General. She pleaded guilty on Dec. 13 to an accusation charging her with second-degree pattern of official misconduct. Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Manis prosecuted the case and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
In pleading guilty, Pumilia admitted that she signed off on numerous purchase orders in the two school districts, authorizing the issuance of district checks to the fictitious bus companies, officials said.
The thefts totaled approximately $336,570 in the Piscataway District, and approximately $229,202 in the Hazlet District. She stole an additional $7,040 from the Hazlet District by fraudulently authorizing “aid-in-lieu” checks in her mother’s name. Such checks are provided to students attending private schools who are entitled to district transportation but cannot be bused by the district. Those checks and most of the checks for the fictitious bus companies were deposited into a joint account she held with her mother. Pumilia must pay full restitution of $572,812. She is permanently barred from public employment and must forfeit all public pension and retirement benefits. Pumilia’s mother, Virginia Lisay, initially was charged in the investigation, but those charges have been dismissed.
“When a school official steals this amount of money, it does real harm to both students and overburdened taxpayers,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “The prison sentence Pumilia received should deter others who might be motivated by greed to selfishly exploit their public positions for personal gain.”
“There is no room for corruption in our school districts, which must struggle every year to hold down costs and meet the needs of students in the classroom,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge anyone who has information about the misappropriation of school funds to contact us confidentially.”
Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice web page at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.
Pumilia’s longtime boyfriend, Scott M. Callahan, 40, who lived with her in Union Beach, pleaded guilty on the same day as Pumilia to third-degree theft by deception before Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci Jr. in Monmouth County. Callahan, who receives disability benefits, admitted that he intentionally under-reported his income from a part-time job in order to receive Social Security disability benefits and federal Section 8 housing subsidies in excess of the amounts to which he was entitled. His fraud resulted in him receiving overpayments over the course of 10 years of $38,794 in Social Security disability benefits and $15,300 in Section 8 housing subsidies from the Middletown Housing Authority. The state will recommend that Callahan be sentenced to a term of probation, conditioned on him paying full restitution. Sentencing for Callahan is scheduled for April 11.
Pumilia was employed as the “Transportation Manager” for the Hazlet Township School District from July 2005 through August 2008. Beginning in 2006, Pumilia entered a new transportation vendor called “VL Transport,” doing business as “Vic Langly,” into the district’s computer system. She provided the district with false state business registration certificates for the company. During the 2006-2007 and 2007-2008 school years, Pumilia authorized a total of approximately $229,202 in purchase orders and payments to VL Transport and Vic Langly. The state’s investigation revealed that the company and the individual were fictitious, and no transportation services were provided to the district in connection with the payments that were made.
Pumilia subsequently was employed as the “Supervisor of Transportation” for the Piscataway Township School District from September 2008 through June 2012. During that period, Pumilia authorized a total of approximately $336,570 in purchase orders and payments to another purported bus company and proprietor of the company. The state’s investigation again revealed that the company was fictitious, and no transportation services were provided to the district in connection with the payments that were made.
Law enforcement agencies were alerted after an employee in the Piscataway School District discovered suspicious invoices and both school districts found irregularities during internal audits.
The Division of Criminal Justice filed a forfeiture action in Superior Court in Monmouth County and obtained a court order to seize four bank accounts of Pumilia and six motor vehicles. Under the plea agreement, Pumilia will relinquish any interest in the seized bank accounts and vehicles.
The charges resulted from an investigation conducted by Detective Sgt. 1st Class Fritz Frage,Detective Sgt. 1st Class Lisa King and Detective Patrick Squitieri of the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption North Unit, and Deputy Attorney General Manis of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Nina Bonner and Detective Melissa Calkin handled the forfeiture action for the Division of Criminal Justice.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, the Social Security Administration and the Middletown Housing Authority for their assistance in the investigation. Special Agent Kristie Morgan assisted in the investigation for the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration. Acting Attorney General Hoffman also thanked the Hazlet Township School District and the Piscataway Township School District for their full cooperation in the state’s investigation.