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Ritacco Abused Public’s Trust, Says U.S. Attorney for NJ [AUDIO/POLL]

He oversaw New Jersey’s fourth-largest school district for decades and now he faces jail time.  Former Toms River Schools Superintendent Mike Ritacco plead guilty to mail fraud and tax evasion Thursday, admitting he took millions of dollars in a bribery and kickback scheme.

Michael Ritacco
Michael Ritacco (Townsquare Media NJ)

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said Ritacco betrayed the trust of students, parents, teachers and taxpayers in Toms River.

“He’s been a very significant and popular figure in that town and that was one of the reasons that he was probably able to get away with this for so long…people trusted him…and he abused that trust.”

“I think its important for the board to continue to work to increase the oversight and transparency and public trust here in Toms River” said Toms River School Board member Ben Giovine.

“The spider-web he wed over there is going to take us years to clean out…these are elaborate spider-web like frauds” said Alex Pavliv, another member of the Toms River School Board.

Pavliv encouraged the public to help them increase transparency in the future.

“If they come to meetings and make an effort to show up and demand answers, they will get them…but if they are going to bury their heads in the sand, its only going to allow the next Ritacco to come up again.”

The FBI raided Ritacco’s Seaside Park home as part of an investigation two years ago. Ritacco surrendered to authorities and originally pleaded not guilty in December of 2010. He was set to go to trial in a few days.

Earlier this week, the district’s former insurance broker Francis Gartland pleaded guilty to taking part in a scheme to bribe the Superintendent.

The IRS says Ritacco also agreed to forfeit his 2010 Mercedes and more than $8,000 in cash that was seized at his home when it was raided.

Fishman says this case is yet another example of a noted public official taking advantage of the community’s trust.

“Superintendent Ritacco abused his position as the head of that school district to collect a million dollars in bribes over an eight to ten year period. This was a big case for our office, we will not tolerate public corruption in this state.”

The 64 year-old Ritacco faces up to 14 years when he’s sentenced in July.

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