Two public employees in Passaic County recently pleaded guilty after an investigation revealed multiple instances of official misconduct, specifically, the theft of over $245,000 in public funds.
43-year-old social services technician Jecemia Echevarria and 30-year-old James Hayer, a Paterson housing inspector, accepted plea offers from the State just before their trials were set to begin.
Echevarria and Hayer, who are in a romantic relationship, were charged after an investigation was conducted by the Passaic County Prosecutor s Public Integrity Unit. According to chief assistant Passaic County prosecutor Paul DeGroot, the two stole over $245,000 from Passaic County between April 2008 and December 2011.
Echevarria, who served as member of the Social Service Emergency Assistance Unit since 2002, admitted to transferring and redirecting public funds to pay for her personal expenses. Hayer, on the other hand, admitted to accepting over $75,000 in payments for more than 100 moves, none of which actually occurred.
Echevarria was suspended from work pending the resolution of this case and has now been permanently terminated. In addition to a 5-year prison sentence, 3 years of which must be served before she becomes eligible for parole, she will be required to provide restitution payments totaling $75,000 to the Passaic County Board of Social Services. As for Hayer, he will be sentenced to a 4-year term of incarceration, per the terms of the agreement. Both defendants will be sentenced on June 23rd before the Honorable Judge Bruno Mongiardo.
Ultimately, Echevarria pleaded guilty to a lesser charge of conspiracy to commit official misconduct and theft by deception, while a charge for witness tampering against Echevarria was dismissed. Hayer also pleaded guilty to a theft by deception offense.
Considering the potential penalties that the two were facing if they proceeded to trial and were convicted, the aforementioned plea agreement was a much more desirable result. For instance, under N.J.S.A. 2C:20-4, theft by deception offenses involving amounts over $75,000 are classified as second degree crimes in New Jersey. This means that the two defendants could have been sentenced to serve between 5 and 10 years in New Jersey State Prison for the theft charge alone if they were ultimately found guilty.
For more about this case, access the following article: Passaic County employee pleads guilty to stealing public funds