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One well-connected North Bergen township Recreation Department employee is serving one year in jail while another entered pre-trial intervention in connection to charges they falsified timesheets in a low-show/no-show job scheme.
Walter Somick, 53, the son of Mayor Nicholas Sacco’s long-time girlfriend, has pleaded guilty to fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records, and was sentenced to an 18-month probation term. As a condition of the probation, Somick was ordered to serve 364 days in Hudson County jail and pay restitution of $6,755.
Garcia, 63, has been accepted into the state’s PTI program for a term of 12 months. If he successfully complete the program, the charges will be dismissed.
Both men were charged by the state Attorney General’s Office in April 2015 with second-degree official misconduct, third-degree theft by deception, third-degree tampering with public records and fourth-degree falsifying records. The misconduct charge carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.
Sacco, also a state senator, created a controversy when he added an amendment to a 2020 state criminal justice reform bill that would include official misconduct on a list of non-violent crimes in which mandatory sentences would be eliminated.
The bill, which was vetoed by Gov. Phil Murphy, was meant to reduce harsh penalties for low-level drug offenders. The official misconduct offense related mostly to corruption by public employees.
News of the charges in a municipality where the Department of Public Works director and two DPW employees either pleaded guilty or were also convicted on corruption offenses was announced in a press release, but the plea deal and PTI program acceptance occurred with no public announcement earlier this year.
Garcia was accepted into PTI in March, while Somick pleaded guilty in May and was sentenced in June.
Both Somick and Garcia, who was also employed by the North Bergen school district as supervisor of security and assistant football coach at North Bergen High School, were ordered to forfeit public employment and to be permanently banned from public office.
State officials said at the time charges were announced that Garcia stole in excess of 130 hours by claiming to be working for the township’s Department of Parks and Recreation, while Somick stole in excess of 110 hours by claiming to be working when he was at home, authorities said. Somick also works as a union electrician.
The charges against Somick and Garcia can be traced back to former Department of Public Works Director James Wiley, who, according to appellate court documents, provided the state with timesheet evidence.
Wiley, who pleaded guilty in 2012 to official misconduct related to directing township employees to do work on his home and other non-township activities, is still awaiting sentencing. No date has been set, a spokesman with the AG’s Office said.
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