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Ritacco Co-Defendant Pleads Guilty

The onetime insurance broker for the Toms River Regional School district today admitted his role in a bribery scheme that funneled millions of dollars to former Superintendent Michael Ritacco.

Former Toms River Schools Superintendent Michael Ritacco (Townsquare Media)

Francis Gartland, 70, of Baltimore, pleaded guilty to mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud the Internal Revenue Service and perjury.

His plea details a scheme that implicates former schools administrator Frank D’Alonzo and onetime broker Frank Cotroneo, indicating more than $500,000 a year in kickbacks to Ritacco between 2002 and 2010.

In entering his plea before Judge Joel Pisano in Trenton,  Gartland implicated Ritacco, 65, former schools administrator Frank D’Alonzo, 54, and insurance broker Frank Cotroneo, 61. The scheme furnished Ritacco with between $1,000,000 and $2,000,000 in bribes beginning in 2002.

The mail fraud charge carries a maximum sentence of 20 years. The conspiracy and perjury charges carry penalties of up to five years each. Gartland’s sentencing is scheduled July 9.

According to Gartland, the four arranged Ritacco’s approval of a workers’ compensation insurance contract through the school district taht would yield more than $500,000 a year in excess fees to Gartland, which he then paid to Ritacco and others designated by the then-Superintendent. Gartland told the court that he and Ritacco used shell companies, middlemen, bogus consulting agreements and third-party payments to conceal the kickbacks.

Also pleading guilty to a related charge is former insurance salesman Carl Amenhauser, 66, of Hidden Valley, PA. Amenhauser admitted lying to the FBI about money that Gartland instructed him to pay D’Alonzo to get and keep a workmens’ compensation consulting contract with the Toms River Regional School District.

Amenhauser told the court that Ritacco hired him in 2002. Gartland then extracted $6,000 a month from him, and directed him to pay D’Alonzo another $3,000 a month. He related that he believed he would not be able to keep the contract unless the terms were met.

Gartland also admitted the roles he and O’Leary played in funnelling thousands of dollars’ worth of illegal contributions to the Congressional campaign of then-Perth Amboy Mayor and Assemblyman Joseph Vas, 57, in 2006.

The purpose, Gartland said, was to keep his brokerage contracts with the City of Perth Amboy and its Board of Education. He acknowledged recruting about 10 straw donors to place about $2,000 each into the Vas campaign that he reimbursed by cash or checks that he financed. Straw donors are illegal under terms of the Federal Election Campaign Act.

Gartland admitted filing false IRS returns for tax years 2004 through 2007, and to conspiring with Cotroneo and former South Amboy Housing Authority Executive Director Thomas O’Leary, to do the same. He went on to confess to lying on his affadavit that indicated that his payments to D’Alonzo and another individual identified as the “intermediary” were never meant to be masked bribes for Ritacco.

Gartland’s mail fraud charge carries a maximum 20-year prison term. The conspiracy and perjury counts are punishable by up to five years each. All counts also carry possible fines of up to $250,000, or twice the amount of loss or gain. His sentencing is scheduled for July 9.

Amenhauser’s sentencing is scheduled June 26. He is subject to a maximum five years imprisonment and a fine of the greater of either $250,000 or twice the amount of loss or gain.

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