Middlesex County News

New Brunswick Water Department Workers Guilty in Scheme Costing City $500,000

83b96cf056e36b786a4a_IMG_9675-100x100.jpg
Two former city water department employees pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a scheme in which they received bribes to reduce water bills for about 50 properties in the city. Credits: City of New Brunswick
83b96cf056e36b786a4a_IMG_9675-100x100.jpg

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Two city Water Department employees have pleaded guilty to charges of falsely reducing water to about 50 different properties in exchange for bribes, costing the city about $500,000, state officials announced.

Joseph “Gordo” DeBonis, 55 of Toms River, a suspended senior account clerk, and William “Billi” Ortiz, 56, of North Brunswick, a meter reader, each face five year prison terms when they are sentence June 15 in Superior Court in Union County, state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement.

DeBonis must serve at least two years of his sentence before being eligible for parole, and Ortiz must serve at least one year, Grewal said.

Sign Up for E-News

He said both men pleaded guilty last week to charges of second-degree official misconduct before Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch.

Each of the men must forfeit their jobs, and are will be barred from holding any public sector jobs, the attorney general said.

Authorities said Ortiz would solicit bribes from customers and then arrange for bill reductions through DeBonis, who had access as a senior account clerk to the city’s water and sewer database.

After Ortiz received the bribe, he provided DeBonis with information about the customer’s properties, and DeBonis modified the customer’s water and sewer bills to dramatically reduce the charges, according to details of the case that was prosecuted by Deputy Attorney General Anthony Robinson, who along with Deputy Attorney General Samantha McCluskey.

Fees were reduced at times by as much as 90 percent, authorities said, and DeBonis took a share of the bribe payments in return for falsifying the bills. The two men collected about $20,000 in bribes, authorities said. The city suspended both men were suspended after they were initially charged in November 2016, Grewal said.

In a separate scheme, Ortiz also solicited bribes from customers in exchange for offering to  switch out the customer’s water meter and install a faulty, antiquated brass meter – which he nicknamed the “thief,” state officials said.

They said that faulty meter would keep the customer’s bill down by failing to record water usage. Ortiz would leave the properly working electronic meter on the premises and connected to power, and he would tell the customer to swap back the electronic meter near the end of the month, so the bill would not be suspiciously low, authorities said.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Edison

Holy Savior Academy Presents ‘The Sound of Music,’ Eighth Graders Inducted into Thespian Society 

SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Holy Savior Academy's Drama Club performed 'Getting to Know: The Sound of Music' on May 3 and May 4. 

Holy Savior Academy's Drama Club just finished its fourth year and has performed six shows. The Drama Club is run under the direction of Susan Loughlin, Daneile Micale and Eva Tripodi. This year’s production, which featured a cast ...

TAPinto Featured Franchisee: Steve Lenox of TAPinto Paterson

This week's feature will focus on TAPinto Paterson's franchisee, Steve Lenox. Find out how the current owner of a public affairs firm went from a former State Director for Senator Frank Lautenberg to a proud TAPinto franchisee for New Jersey's third largest city.

 

Q. When did you join TAPinto.net?

I joined TAPinto.net in September, ...

Piscataway Police: Driver Charged with Causing Passenger’s Death

May 16, 2018

PISCATAWAY, NJ – Tayib Mahmood, 29, of Woodbridge was charged on Wednesday with causing the death of a passenger in his car, said Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew C. Carey and Piscataway Police Chief Scott Cartmell.

The charges stem from a May 6 crash on Stelton Road when Mahmood, who was driving a 2014 Toyota Camry struck a concrete barrier near Jessie Way and the car caught on fire, ...

Rutgers Center Battles Noise Pollution Nationwide

May 11, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ  - Eric Zwerling got a call this week from a man was living next to a fitness center, complaining he repeatedly heard the loud thud heavy free weights and medicine balls hit the floor.

The man was recovering from having a pace maker in his chest and wondering of the impact of the noise from the gym.

“I’ve received thousands of calls,” said Zwerling, ...

Wardlaw+Hartridge Robotics Teams Take Coding to Higher Level

May 19, 2018

The Middle School Robotics Club and Upper School Robotics Team from The Wardlaw+Hartridge School in Edison, accompanied by Mrs. Jafri, participated in the Botball Tournament in Rahway on Saturday May 12. Although this is the sixth year that our Middle School competed, it was the first year for Upper School. During the year, teams built autonomous robots using Lego components and metal ...

'To Kill a Mockingbird' Sustains Timeless Appeal

SUMMIT, NJ – The Summit Playhouse provides a stellar production of a much loved classic, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The Harper Lee novel, later a Gregory Peck film and now a stage production, retains all the warmth, intensity and integrity that made it such an appealing hit in the 1960s. And there will be a new production on Broadway in December with a script by Aaron Sorkin ...