Francis X. Gartland admitted in federal court today that while he served as the insurance broker for Toms River Regional Schools he funneled bribes through a series of intermediaries to then-superintendent Michael J. Ritacco.
The payments were in excess of $1 million total from 2002-2010, announced the U.S. Attorney's office.
Gartland, 70, had plead not guilty previously and was awaiting trial, scheduled to begin in a week alongside Ritacco, in a 27-count federal indictment that alleged bribery, kickbacks, fraud and tax evasion.
The district's former insurance broker pleaded guilty today before U.S. District
Judge Joel A. Pisano in Trenton federal court to charges of mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud the IRS, and perjury.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced Gartland's plea. He said Gartland, while insurance broker for the Toms River Regional School District, admitted his role in a scheme to pay bribes and other benefits to the then-superintendent of schools to get and maintain a contract to provide insurance services for the district.
In the court documents and statements released this afternoon, Gartland admitted to his role with co-conspirators who paid $1 million to $2 million in bribes to Ritacco in exchange for inflated insurance contracts from 2002 to 2010, according to Fishman.
The co-conspirators named are Frank D’Alonzo, a former administrator at the Toms River Regional School District, Frank Cotroneo, 61, an insurance broker, and others.
"The payments were made to allow Gartland to obtain and keep the insurance contract with the district," according to a release from Fishman's office announcing the plea.
According to the U.S. Attorney's Office:
• Gartland admitted that in 2002, he, Ritacco, Cotroneo, and D’Alonzo agreed to have Ritacco approve a workers’ compensation insurance contract. That contract, between Gartland and the school district, had contract fees that would yield $500,000 to $600,000 per year in excess fees, which would be used to pay bribes and kickbacks to Ritacco.
• Gartland admitted his role in conspiring with Ritacco to defraud the IRS by hiding these bribes and other benefits that were paid to Ritacco, and to other individuals at Ritacco’s direction.
• Gartland admitted he and Ritacco, 65, used a series of shell companies and intermediaries to conceal the payments.
• Gartland admitted to filing fraudulent individual tax returns for tax years 2004 through 2007.
Gartland's sentencing is scheduled for July 9. In Ritacco's trial, jury selection is scheduled to begin April 9 in Trenton.
According to Fishman, the mail fraud to which Gartland pleaded guilty is punishable by up to 20 years in prison; on the conspiracy charges, up to five years in prison; and on the perjury charge, up to five years in prison. All the counts are also punishable by fines of $250,000.
In today's announcement, Gartland also admitted to his role in corruption charges elsewhere.
Calls placed to Toms River Regional School spokesperson Tammi Millar, Ritacco's Attorney William Hughes Jr., and U.S. Attorney spokesperson Rebekah Carmichael, were not immediately returned at this time.