A Mount Laurel NJ man who used to teach at Willingboro High School received a sentence of just 90 days in the county jail after pleading guilty to theft. According to Burlington County prosecutors, the suspect stole more than $14,000 from the high school’s student activities fund while serving as the senior class advisor. The fund had been set up specifically for the Willingboro High School Class of 2016.
The suspect, a 47-year-old resident of Mount Laurel, worked as a history teacher at Willingboro High School and was also set to coach the football team at Haddon Heights High School. In fact, the suspect had just been hired by Haddon Heights when authorities arrested him for the Willingboro fraud and embezzlement. Shortly after being placed under arrest and criminally charged with theft by deception, the suspect resigned from his new job.
The suspect told investigators that he stole the cash in order to finance his gambling addiction. According to NJ pension records, the suspect earned more than $90K annually from his teaching job. The suspect is a member of the South Jersey Football Hall of Fame and previously coached high school football teams in Burlington City, Camden, Jackson, and Pennsauken.
Plea Deal in Willingboro Theft Case
In September 2016, the suspect reached a plea deal with prosecutors and admitted to stealing the money. The plea agreement allowed the suspect to avoid a trial in Burlington County Superior Court and also meant that prosecutors would recommend a lenient punishment for the suspect at the later sentencing hearing.
It turns out that the sentence was even more lenient than anticipated. The judge ordered that the suspect be held at the Burlington County Jail for a period of just 90 days, which is significantly lower than the six-month term of incarceration that prosecutors agreed to recommend. It is unclear at this time if the State altered the terms of the plea deal prior to the sentencing hearing or if the superior court judge made a determination on his own to hand down the more lenient sentence.
The suspect was also ordered to serve two years of probation. This probationary sentence means that the suspect should be able to avoid additional time behind bars – so long as he stays out of trouble and meets all the conditions of his probation. It is likely that these conditions will include counseling and treatment for the suspect’s gambling addiction, as well as a requirement to continue paying restitution for the money that the suspect stole. (He reportedly still has to pay back nearly $3,000 to the school.)
Another implication of the suspect’s guilty plea is that he will no longer be able to secure public employment in NJ, which means that his career as a New Jersey public school teacher is likely over.
If you have been arrested and charged with a theft or fraud offense in New Jersey, you need to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. Contact the Law Firm of Stephen R. Piper today to schedule a free initial consultation about your case.