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News

Current, Former Wildwood Mayors, Commissioner Charged With Scamming Health Benefits Program

Wildwood Mayor Peter J. Byron
Wildwood Mayor Peter J. Byron Photo Credit: FACEBOOK

The city of Wildwood’s former and current mayor and a city commissioner broke the law – committing “breaches of the public trust” -- by collecting health benefits that they didn’t earn, state authorities said Friday.

Wildwood Mayor Peter J. Byron, former Mayor Ernest V. Troiano Jr., and current City Commissioner Steven E. Mikulski were charged criminally for fraudulently participating in the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP), Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said.

In order to be eligible for the benefits, they needed to be full-time employees “whose hours of work are fixed at 35 or more per week” in their elected positions, Platkin said.

All three “enrolled in the SHBP and received publicly funded health benefits,” even though none of them clocked the necessary hours and “maintained no regular schedule,” the attorney general said.

They also didn’t get vacation, sick or personal days, he said.

Byron, 67, and Troiano, 71, were elected to Wildwood’s three-member City Commission in 2011, and Troiano was sworn in as mayor.

Both men voted in 2011 to pass a resolution that declared themselves full-time employees working “a minimum of 35 hours per week” for Wildwood, Platkin noted.

While Troiano and Byron did not work a regular full-time schedule or work at least 35 hours per week, they allegedly falsely signed and submitted timesheets to the city indicating they worked full days Monday through Friday, the attorney general said.

As a result, he said, Wildwood and the SHBP paid more than $286,500 in premiums and claims on behalf of Troiano from July 2011 through December 2019, and paid more than $608,900 in premiums and claims on behalf of Byron from July 2011 through October 2021.

Mikulski, 57, enrolled in the SHBP after becoming a member of Wildwood’s Commission in 2020. He enrolled in the SHBP and has since received publicly funded health benefits, Platkin noted. Wildwood and the SHBP have paid more than $103,000 in premiums and claims on his behalf through October 2021.

All three men were charged Friday with theft and tampering with public records following an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) that began with a referral from the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits.

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