ROSELLE, NJ - Michael Smart, 62, from Roselle, pleaded guilty this week to a charge of second-degree theft by unlawful taking before Superior Court Judge William A. Daniel in Union County. Smart admitted that he stole a total of approximately $150,000 from 2012 through 2015, while employed as the head track coach for Essex County College.
Deputy Attorney General Robinson and the detectives in the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau North Squad who conducted the investigation found, as the head track coach, Smart was given a debit/credit card on a college account for travel and event expenses incurred by the track and field program. The athletic department made funds available in the account for expenses like food, transportation and event entry fees so that coaches could withdraw money when their teams had events. After events, coaches were supposed to return any unused funds with an accounting of expenditures as well as receipts to document them. Smart withdrew approximately $150,000 in funds using the college debit card for which he provided no accounting or receipts.
Nearly all of the funds stolen by Smart were withdrawn at ATM machines and deposited into his personal bank accounts. Often he would withdraw the transactional maximum of $700 several times per day. On multiple occasions, Smart either inflated the costs of an event or requested money for events that the track team did not attend. Other times he requested between $1,000 and $1,500 for entry fees for events, when the hosting schools, in fact, either did not charge entry fees or charged less than half the amount taken by Smart.
“Smart used the debit card that was entrusted to him for team purposes like it was a personal debit card, racking up many thousands of dollars in withdrawals,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “By sending this coach to prison, we will deter others who might consider embezzling funds in this fashion.”
Smart accepted a plea agreement, that the state will recommend he be sentenced to three years in state prison and will be permanently barred from public employment and must pay full restitution.
Smart is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 3, 2017.