A Hudson County grand jury has indicted Alan Bartolozzi on six counts of theft and official misconduct in the second degree in connection with his work as Secaucus Tax Collector, according to Assistant Hudson County Prosecutor Leo Hernandez.
Bartolozzi, who was suspended from his job in May 2009, faces between five to 10 years behind bars for each count.
Bartolozzi, who is currently suspended without pay, has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
The indictment comes a year and a half after accountants uncovered a shortfall of hundreds of thousands of dollars in the Tax Collector’s Office, which Bartolozzi ran for 24 years. In May of this year, town officials announced that $777,725 was missing from the tax office. The shortfall has since been covered by insurance companies.
Bartolozzi faces between five to 10 years behind bars for each count.
Don Gardner, Bartolozzi’s defense attorney, did not return two calls last week seeking comment.
An indictment is not a decision about guilt or innocence, but a grand jury’s decision that there is enough evidence to bring a matter to trial.
Hernandez, who is handling the Bartolozzi case on behalf of the Hudson County Prosecutor, detailed the six-count indictment on Aug. 17 after the grand jury decision was made public. According to Hernandez, the six counts against Bartolozzi are:
• Count one: theft by unlawful taking in excess of $75,000;
• Count two: computer theft in excess of $5,000;
• Count three: theft by failure to make required disposition of property received;
• Count four: misapplication of entrusted property of the government;
• Count five: official misconduct; and
• Count six: pattern of official misconduct.
“Now, count six is somewhat different in that if the person is found guilty of this crime, they must be sentenced consecutively to any other crime they’re found guilty of,” Hernandez said.
This means that, if convicted of this count, Bartolozzi would have to serve the time for this crime on top of any other sentences he might be given. The sentence cannot be served concurrently. Sentences for the remaining five counts could be served concurrently.
Bartolozzi must still be arraigned in the case before a trial date can be set. Hernandez said an arraignment will likely be scheduled for next month.
Case led to changes
Earlier this year, in response to the case, the Secaucus Town Council approved a number of changes to prevent similar alleged thefts in the future.
In January, the council passed a resolution barring property owners from paying their tax bills in cash, since many of the alleged thefts came from tax payments made in cash.
A team of auditors recommended a number of other changes that have also been implemented. Employees in the Tax Collector’s Office now have assigned drawers that are used to collect checks. That way, at the end of each day it is clear how much money each employee collected. Before, one drawer was used to collect all tax payments that were made in person.
Each employee also now has a unique username and password to access the computer system in the office. Previously, everyone in the office shared one username and password.
Finally, the town auditors will periodically confirm payment records with individual taxpayers.
Last September the Town Council appointed Nicholas Goldsack as temporary tax collector. A certified tax collector and certified financial officer, Goldsack has previously worked as tax collector in Guttenberg. At present he is not a salaried employee and earns $35 an hour. He also receives no benefits.
Trial in union case set for Sept.
Even before this recent indictment Bartolozzi was already facing jail time in connection with other charges.
After alleged shortfalls were uncovered in the Tax Collector’s Office early last year, a local union for which Bartolozzi had served as volunteer treasurer began its own investigation.
The union, the Secaucus Public Employees’ Association, allegedly found financial shortfalls in its account and turned over evidence collected during its investigation to the Hudson County Prosecutor.
After further investigation, prosecutors alleged that Bartolozzi stole nearly $25,000 from the union during his tenure as volunteer treasurer. A separate grand jury indicted Bartolozzi in January on one count of theft by unlawful taking in the third degree in connection with this case. If convicted he could serve three to five years in prison. However, Hernandez said that “in this case, as a first-time offender, there is a presumption against incarceration,” and Bartolozzi could be sentenced to probation.
A trial in this case is currently scheduled to begin on Sept. 28.
Bartolozzi has pleaded not guilty.
No indictment on alleged drug charges
Despite facing a total of seven counts in two separate cases, other allegations against Bartolozzi have been dropped.
A third grand jury refused to indict him on one count of cocaine possession in the third degree. The charges stemmed from allegations that trace amounts of the drug were found in his desk at Town Hall days after he was suspended from his job.
Because the drug was found days after Bartolozzi’s departure, prosecutors likely had difficulty proving the cocaine belonged to him and hadn’t been planted. This charge against him has been dropped.
Bartolozzi could have faced five years in jail for possession had he been indicted of this charge.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.