Three Jersey City, New Jersey, police officers pleaded guilty on Tuesday for accepting payment for off-duty work they they never performed. The three officers are only the latest to appear in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, to plead guilty in what appears to be a widespread Jersey City Police Department conspiracy.
James Cardinali, 38, of Jersey City; Victor Sanchez, 37, of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey; and Christopher Ortega, 29, of Brick, New Jersey, face up to five years in prison each when they are sentenced Nov. 6, 2017 in federal court. All three disgraced officers had pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez.
Cardinali’s duties included serving as the police department’s “pick coordinator” for the South District stationhouse. The “pick coordinator” is the officer who assigns off-duty police officers to locations requiring a police presence and where a private entity of public agency pays for police coverage.
According to the prosecution, Cardinali had frequently asked some vendor representatives to sign vouchers that falsely indicated an officer had completed an assignment for them despite no officers were present and no services were rendered.
When the police officers received payments for those assignments, some of the money was “kicked-back” to Cardinali.
Each of the three now-fired officers pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit fraud. Cardinali will also have to forfeit $39,587 he received through the scheme, while Victor Sanchez will forfeit $21,583 and Ortega will forfeit $18,336, according to a Justice Department statement.
Two additional officers had pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme during an earlier court proceeding with one dying, while the other awaits sentencing.
Acting U.S. Attorney William Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, with the investigation. The Jersey City Police Department is cooperating with the investigation, he added.