NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - Two city water utility employees are facing criminal charges stemming from an alleged scheme to accept cash to slash a customer’s water bill, according to complaints filed by the state Division of Criminal Justice’s corruption bureau.
The city announced Saturday that it had suspended the workers, William Ortiz and Joseph DeBonis, without pay. Copies of the complaints were not available until this morning, when state offices opened for the week.
According to the complaint against Ortiz, 55, the water meter reader took $2,000 on November 22 or 23 “to reduce” an unnamed individual’s water and sewer tab.
Around the same time, DeBonis allegedly used his position as a senior account clerk at the water department to falsely change the bill of an unnamed individual, according to the complaint against him.
Ortiz, of North Brunswick, has been charged with bribery and official misconduct. DeBonis, of Toms River, has been charged with tampering with public records and official misconduct.
State records show that Ortiz, 55, has been in the state pension system since 1998 and earns $46,864 per year. DeBonis, 54, has been in the pension system since 1994 and earns $42,108 per year.
Neither man could be reached for comment.
The timing of each incident suggests the alleged crimes are related, but officials have yet to confirm the connection.
Spokespersons for the state and the New Brunswick Police Department declined to provide additional information, citing the ongoing investigation. It is unclear whether more charges will be lobbied against Ortiz and DeBonis, or anyone else.
Both men are scheduled to appear in New Brunswick Municipal Court at 9 a.m. on December 22.
State Det. Richard Lane filed the complaints against them. They will be prosecuted by the state Division of Criminal Justice’s corruption office.