NJ park police officer indicted, allegedly stole $160K from union
TRENTON – A state park police officer was indicted last week on charges that he stole about $160,000 from two police unions he led, state prosecutors announced Wednesday.
Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said Chris Smith, 48, of Hope used the money for personal meals at upscale restaurants, airfare and out-of-state outings not related to union business.
Smith was charged with one count of second-degree theft by unlawful taking for what prosecutors described as “a continuous theft scheme” that occurred between 2014 and 2019, when Smith was president of both Local 222 of the Park Police PBA and the State Law Enforcement Union (SLEU).
If convicted of the second-degree charge, Smith faces five to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
“Union members were having dues deducted from their paychecks, thinking their hard-earned money would be used to represent their best interests at the bargaining table,” Platkin said. “Instead, they were unwittingly picking up the tab when the check came to the defendant’s dinner table, at top-notch restaurants where he indulged himself on their dime.”
“After getting free meals, free plane tickets and free Internet access courtesy of his fellow police officers, who never agreed to splurge on this ex-union president, we expect the defendant will now pay the dues,” said Thomas Eicher, executive director of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability.
Investigators allege Smith used union bank cards to pay for outings in New York, Pennsylvania and Florida, air travel, his personal internet service and meals at upscale restaurants in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York.
They say the restaurant visits included the now-shuttered 1930s-era speakeasy “21” in Midtown Manhattan, which had been frequented by celebrities.
Officers at Local 222 questioned Smith about the spending and were told the expenses were related to meetings with attorneys, politicians and other influential people who could help the unions, prosecutors said. However, investigators say he was often alone or with his wife when the charges were incurred and that travel didn’t coincide with union events.
When confronted about the low balance in Local 222’s account, Smith allegedly blamed payroll for failing to properly deduct union dues from members’ paychecks.