TRENTON, NJ – A former meter reader for the New Brunswick Water Department has been sentenced to state prison for participating in a scheme with two other former water department employees to reduce the water and sewer bills of numerous customers in return for bribes, according to the state attorney general’s office.

Guillermo Quinones, 51, of Somerset, was sentenced Thursday to five years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch in Union County. He pleaded guilty on Feb. 14, 2020 to official misconduct. Quinones forfeited his job with the water department and is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.

Two other former employees of the New Brunswick Water Department who participated in the scheme with Quinones previously pleaded guilty to official misconduct. Joseph DeBonis, 58, of Toms River, a former senior account clerk, and William Ortiz, 59, of North Brunswick, a former meter reader, were each sentenced to five years in prison by Judge Kirsch on Oct. 4, 2019.

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Deputy Attorney General Samantha Keleher represented the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability at the sentencing hearing for Quinones.  She prosecuted Quinones, DeBonis and Ortiz with former Deputy Attorney General Anthony Robinson, under the supervision of Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee and Counsel to the Director Anthony Picione. The defendants were charged in an investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA).

In addition to the three defendants employed by the water department, 11 residents were charged with allegedly paying cash to have their water and sewer bills reduced.  One resident pleaded guilty to a charge of unlawful benefit to a public servant for official behavior and was sentenced to probation.  The other 10 were charged with theft by unlawful taking and admitted into the Pre-Trial Intervention program on the condition that they pay full restitution.

Quinones, Ortiz and DeBonis illegally reduced water and sewer bills for roughly 50 different properties over a period of several years in return for bribes totaling approximately $20,000.  Quinones and 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 Quinones and Ortiz received bribes, they provided DeBonis with information about the customer’s properties, and DeBonis modified the customer’s water and sewer bills to dramatically reduce the charges.  Fees were reduced at times by as much as 90 percent. DeBonis took a share of the bribe payments in return for falsifying the bills.