State worker stole from boys team then robbed bank to pay it back, NJ cops say
For a manager of an Ocean County youth baseball team, the attempted cover up was worse than the original crime, according to the charges he's now facing.
Michael Walters, 52, was arrested Thursday after being accused of stealing more than $6,500 from his team in Manchester — and then robbing a bank in neighboring Berkeley in order to pay it back. Police said he also used his government-owned vehicle from his job with the state's child welfare agency as the getaway car.
Police first became involved on Wednesday when coaches and team representatives for a local Boys 10U travel baseball team contacted them about their worries that Walters may have been pilfering funds that were meant for equipment, traveling expenses and other team fees.
Their suspicions were raised when Walters was unable to pay one of the team's fundraising winners, Manchester police said.
The next day, Walters arrived at the Manchester police station and told officers that he had come into a large amount of cash, which he was able to use to pay back the team, officials said.
Now it was the police's suspicions that were raised.
Officers in Manchester were already aware that their colleagues in Berkeley were investigating a Thursday morning robbery of a Santander Bank on Jamaica Boulevard. Police there said a heavily disguised masked bandit walked into the bank, handed a teller a note demanding money and walked out with cash.
Manchester police called Berkeley police to tell them about Walters' newfound cash.
Using residential surveillance video, Berkeley police said they matched Walters' vehicle — which belongs to the Division of Child Protection and Permanency, an agency that pays Walters a $57,400 base salary — with the car seen near the bank. They said the car was a perfect match.
Berkeley police got a search warrant about 11 p.m. and said they found money and "items used in the robbery" in the car.
Walters was arrested and charged with second-degree robbery in connection to the bank, and theft by deception and issuing a bad check for more than $500 in connection to the team.
He was being held at Ocean County Jail on Friday awaiting a court hearing. New Jersey 101.5 did know Friday whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.