TRENTON, N.J. — The former transportation manager/supervisor for two New Jersey school districts was sentenced last week to five years in state prison without the possibility of parole for stealing $565,772 from the districts by authorizing payments to fictitious bus companies for transportation services that were never provided to the districts.
Michelle Pumilia stole an additional $7,040 from one of the districts by fraudulently authorizing “aid-in-lieu” checks in her mother’s name.
Pumilia was employed as the transportation manager for Hazlet Township Public Schools from 2005 to August 2008. She was subsequently the supervisor of transportation for Piscataway Township Schools from September 2008 through June 2012.
Beginning in 2006, Pumilia entered a new transportation vendor called “VL Transport,” doing business as “Vic Langly,” into Hazlet Township Public Schools' computer system. She provided the district with false state business registration certificates for the company. During the 2006-07 and 2007-08 school years, Pumilia authorized a total of approximately $229,202 in purchase orders and payments to VL Transport and Vic Langly.
During her employment at Piscataway Township Schools, Pumilia authorized a total of approximately $336,570 in purchase orders and payments to another purported bus company and proprietor of the company.
Law enforcement agencies were alerted after an employee in the Piscataway district discovered suspicious invoices, and both school districts found irregularities during internal audits.
The state’s investigation into the transactions at Hazlet Township Public Schools revealed that the company and the individual were fictitious, and no transportation services were provided to the district in connection with the payments that were made.
The state’s investigation into the transactions at Piscataway Township Schools again revealed that the company was fictitious, and no transportation services were provided to the district in connection with the payments that were made.
Pumilia ultimately pled guilty to an accusation charging her with second-degree pattern of official misconduct.
In pleading guilty, Pumilia admitted that she signed off on numerous purchase orders in the two school districts, authorizing the issuance of district checks to the fictitious bus companies. The thefts totaled approximately $336,570 in the Piscataway district, and approximately $229,202 in the Hazlet district.
She stole an additional $7,040 from the Hazlet district by fraudulently authorizing “aid-in-lieu” checks in her mother’s name. Such checks are provided to students attending private schools who are entitled to district transportation but cannot be bused by the district.
Those checks and most of the checks for the fictitious bus companies were deposited into a joint account she held with her mother. Pumilia must pay full restitution of $572,812. She is also permanently barred from public employment and must forfeit all public pension and retirement benefits. Pumilia’s mother, Virginia Lisay, initially was charged in the investigation, but those charges have been dismissed.
Additionally, the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice filed a forfeiture action in the Superior Court in Monmouth County and obtained a court order to seize four bank accounts of Pumilia’s and six motor vehicles. Under the plea agreement, Pumilia will relinquish any interest in the seized bank accounts and vehicles.
“When a school official steals this amount of money, it does real harm to both students and overburdened taxpayers,” Acting Attorney General John Hoffman said. “The prison sentence Pumilia received should deter others who might be motivated by greed to selfishly exploit their public positions for personal gain.”
“There is no room for corruption in our school districts, which must struggle every year to hold down costs and meet the needs of students in the classroom,” added Elie Honig, director of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge anyone who has information about the misappropriation of school funds to contact us confidentially.”
Hoffman and Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline at (866) TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. The public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice web page to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.