NEWARK — The former head track and field coach at Essex County College has admitted to stealing $150,000 from the public school.

Michael Smart, 62, of Roselle, is facing three years in prison and may never work a public job in the state again after pleading guilty to second-degree theft. Prosecutors with the state Attorney General's Office will also seek that Smart pays back all the money he stole.

Prosecutors say Smart used the college's debit card, which was supposed to be used for team expenses, as a personal ATM card from 2012 to 2015.

The funds were supposed to be used to buy the team food or pay for event fees. Instead, Smart inflated costs, requested funds for events the team did not attend, and requested funds to pay fees for events that did not charge.

Prosecutors said Smart often withdrew the $700 transaction maximum several times a day.

“By sending this coach to prison, we will deter others who might consider embezzling funds in this fashion," Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig said Friday.

Smart retired last year with a salary of more than $54,000. He is collecting an annual pension of $31,000. It is not clear how his conviction will affect his public benefits.

The state's Corruption Tipline takes confidential tips at 866-TIPS-4CJ.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-438-1015 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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