TRENTON – Attorney General Anne Milgram and Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni announced that two former clerks in the New Jersey Division of Taxation who processed claims for unclaimed property were charged today in separate indictments with stealing unclaimed funds in 2006. A co-conspirator of one of the clerks was also indicted.
According to Director Gramiccioni, Stefan Arteaga-Pitzenbauer, 36, of Levittown, Pennsylvania, a former technical assistant with the Division of Taxation, allegedly conspired with another man who did not work for the state, Luis Maura, 25, of Hamilton, to steal $8,584 by creating and approving payment of fraudulent claims for unclaimed property.
Arteaga-Pitzenbauer and Maura are each charged in a state grand jury indictment with conspiracy (2nd degree), official misconduct (2nd degree), theft by deception (3rd degree), tampering with public records (3rd degree) and falsifying records (4th degree). The indictment was obtained today by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
A second state grand jury indictment returned today charges Ileana Paris, 34, of Lumberton, who also was a technical assistant in the Division of Taxation, with official misconduct (2nd degree), theft by deception (3rd degree) and tampering with public records (3rd degree). She allegedly stole $2,150 by creating and approving a phony claim for unclaimed property.
The two indictments resulted from investigations conducted by the Division of Taxation, New Jersey State Police and Division of Criminal Justice.
Unclaimed property is property, excluding real estate, that has been unclaimed by its rightful owner for a period of time specified by statute. Examples include unclaimed class action proceeds, safe deposit box contents, utility deposits, money orders and traveler’s checks. To claim property, an individual must file a form with the Division of Taxation to prove ownership. Technical assistants process claims and approve verified claims for payment.
Arteaga-Pitzenbauer and Maura, who worked together as waiters in a Trenton restaurant, allegedly conspired to file nine fraudulent claims for unclaimed property totaling $8,584. The claims were filed in the names of Maura and four other men. Arteaga-Pitzenbauer allegedly created and processed the claims in his official capacity.
Arteaga-Pitzenbauer had authority to approve claims under $1,000 without a secondary approval from a supervisor. He approved the phony claims, each of which was for an amount between $900 and $1,000, causing the state to issue payment checks in the names of the claimants. The checks were cashed and the defendants allegedly obtained the proceeds.
The second indictment alleges that Paris created and approved a fraudulent claim for $2,150 in a friend’s name. She had authority to approve claims for up to $2,500 without approval from a supervisor. The check was cashed and Paris allegedly obtained the proceeds.
The Division of Taxation Internal Security Unit initiated the investigations and referred them to the State Police Official Corruption Bureau and Division of Criminal Justice. Arteaga-Pitzenbauer and Paris were removed from their state jobs in 2008 after the alleged conduct was uncovered.
Attorney General Milgram thanked the Division of Taxation for the referrals.
Deputy Attorney General Susan Kase presented the indictments to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
Investigator Carolyn A. Fox, Investigator Linda H. Bowker, Dennis G. Shilling, who now is Chief of Staff for the Division of Taxation, and Supervising Investigator Jack Grady conducted the investigations for the Division of Taxation Internal Security Unit. The investigations were led for the State Police Official Corruption Bureau by Detective James Sansone in the case of Arteaga-Pitzenbauer and Maura, and by Detective Sgt. Neil Hickey in the Paris case. New Jersey State Police Detective Sergeant Dave Smith assisted on the Arteaga-Pitzenbauer and Maura investigation, and Detective Mario Dirienzo assisted on the Paris investigation. Deputy Attorney General Kase and Deputy Attorney General Michael Wicke coordinated the investigations for the Division of Criminal Justice.
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 indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The indictments were handed up to Superior Court Judge Maria Marinari Sypek in Mercer County. The defendants will be ordered to appear in Superior Court in Mercer County at a later date to answer the charges.
The Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau has established a toll-free tipline: 1-866-TIPS-4CJ. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice Web page at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing. All information received through the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Tipline or Web page will remain confidential.