A 52-year-old from Manahawkin who formerly worked as a compliance officer for the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission could spend up to 364 days in prison in exchange for his guilty plea to a third-degree charge of theft by deception.

James Pluchino's plea bargain, entered today in Ocean County Superior Court, also requires that he be barred from public employment in the Garden State for life and repay $9,313 to NJMVC.  Judge Wendell Daniels is scheduled to sentence Pluchino in Toms River on September 14.

Pluchino was assigned to an auditing route that included 94 private inspection facilities around the state. He admitted ignoring most of the assigned audits between March and August 2010, yet reporting them as complete and submitting computerized time sheets for work never performed. He was responsible for distributing vehicle inspection stickers and auditing their documentation to ensure accountability with corresponding inspection records.

Investigators with the office of New Jersey Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa say that Pluchino skimmed $9,313 through falsified time sheets covering at least 40 days. He earned $62,661 annually before resigning in September 2010, just prior to the filing of charges against him, endinig 25 years with the agency.

"This state worker betrayed the public on two levels," said Chiesa in a release. "First, he collected over $9,000 in unearned wages by filing false time sheets to cover up at least 40 unexcused absences in a six-month period. Beyond that, he failed to perform his duties, which meant that numerous private inspection facilities were not audited to ensure that they were properly inspecting vehicles.”

NJMVC Investigator Stephen Crane and James Clifford, the agency's investigations chief for Security, Investigation and Internal Audit conducted the probe on the advice of Inspection Services Director Thomas Bednarz and Coordinator Paul Giordano.