Byron, former Mayor Ernest Troiano Jr., and current City Commissioner Steve Mikulski fraudulently participated in the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP), the indictment alleges.
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, New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin explained.
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, 72, 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 originally charged in June 2022 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.
Then came the indictment.
It charges each man with official misconduct, theft, tampering with public records and falsifying records.
All three defendants pleaded not guilty during an arraignment in state Superior Court in Cape May County before Judge Bernard DeLury, Jr., Platkin said on Wednesday.
In a separate case, Byron admitted in U.S. District Court last Friday that he ducked paying taxes on $40,425 that he received for working as a salesman for a law firm, federal authorities said.
SEE: Wildwood Mayor Admits Tax Dodge: Feds
Deputy Attorney General Brian Uzdavinis is prosecuting the case for the OPIA Corruption Bureau, assisted by detectives from the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption South Unit, Platkin said.
He also thanked the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits for the referral.
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