TRENTON — An embattled state agency was the victim of a $22,000 inside-job computer theft.

Corey Jester, 49, of Freehold Township, was sentenced this week to five years of probation after pleading guilty to stealing 28 computers from the Schools Development Authority. Prosecutors had sought a three-year prison term.

Jester had been a temporary employee hired through an outside company to staff the agency's IT help desk.

State prosecutors say Jester stole the computers from storage, wiped them clean and sold them online for $100 to $200 a piece.

A judge ordered him to pay back $22,085 in restitution. He's already paid back $5,000, officials said.

Jester was busted after the SDA noticed that the computers were missing in December 2017.

The SDA, which manages $11 billion in school construction projects in some of the state's poorest school districts, has been under fire for its hiring practices, which are being investigated by a bipartisan legislative panel.

The SDA is the agency where Murphy officials installed Al Alvarez as chief of staff even though he had been accused by a fellow Murphy campaign worker and administration official of a sexual assault before Phil Murphy took office as governor. The legislative committee has not been able to find out who exactly hired Alvarez despite hearing testimony from several high-ranking officials, including Alvarez. Alvarez denies wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime but was let go in October after the allegations was reported in the media.

The agency's CEO under Murphy laid off several workers and hired 38 new people, some at higher pay than those they replaced.

Several lawmakers have called for the agency to be abolished.

Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email sergio.bichao@townsquaremedia.com.

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