Freeholder's Daughter Did Not Receive Special Treatment In Little Egg Thefts, State Says
Dawn Marie Kelly had no prior criminal record, pleaded guilty to accusation of stealing $40,000 from tax collector's office
The theft of $40,000 from the Little Egg Harbor tax collector's office first came to light when some residents received notices they had not paid their taxes when they had.
Little Egg Harbor officials then discovered that Dawn Marie Kelly, the 30-year-old daughter of Freeholder Director John P. Kelly, had been pocketing tax payment paid in cash, said Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the state Attorney General's office.
"They paid and the money disappeared," he said. "That led to the tax collector contacting Little Egg Harbor police, who referred it to the Division of Criminal Justice and the State Police."
Dawn Kelly, who worked as the deputy tax collector, pleaded guilty to an accusation of theft by unlawful taking prior to being indicted, he said.
"We made it clear she would be charged, she would be indicted," Aseltine said.
The state Attorney General's office agreed to the plea with no jail time, as long as Kelly agreed to resign, enter a long-term, inpatient drug treatment program, and pay back the money, he said.
Pleading guilty to a third degree time without any prior criminal history comes with a presumption of no jail time, according to state sentencing guidelines, Aseltine said.
"This was a fairly typical resolution in this kind of a case," he said. "We feel it's an appropriate resolution and it's in keeping with the nature of the case."
Kelly also agreed to pay back the $40,000 in restitution, give up her job and will never be able to hold a public position again, said Aseltine.
She still owes $6,486 in restitution. The balance has already been paid. Aseltine said he did not know how the balance was paid.
"I don't have specific information on the source of the funds that was paid back by her," he said.
Aseltine also said he did not know who would pay for the drug treatment program.
Kelly, Eagleswood Township, pleaded guilty to on Dec. 14 before Ocean County Superior Court Judge James M. Blaney.
The thefts took place between Nov. 11, 2011 and July 31, 2012, the state Attorney General's Office has said.
The Ocean County Prosecutor's Office also referred the matter to the state Attorney General's Office because of potential conflicts of interest, Executive Assistant Prosecutor Michel A. Paulhus has said.