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spacer NEW JERSEY STATE POLICE
OFFICIAL NEWS RELEASE

 
 

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:
Division of Criminal Justice:
John R. Hagerty   609-984-1936

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 6, 2004


 
 
ATTORNEY GENERAL FILES CRIMINAL CHARGES AGAINST FORMER COMMERCE COMMISSION OFFICIAL & FAMILY MEMBERS AS PART OF ONGOING CORRUPTION PROBE

Special Prosecutions Bureau Target Public Corruption

Public Encouraged To Report Corruption To Criminal Justice
Tip Line at: 1-866-TIPS-4CJ or www.njdcj.org

Trenton, N.J. - New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey today announced that an ongoing investigation by the Attorney General's Special Prosecutions Bureau targeting public corruption in the cabinet-level office of the New Jersey Commerce & Economic Growth Commission has resulted in the indictment of the Commission's former Chief-of-Staff and two family members hired as "consultants" on charges that include official misconduct, theft and covering-up the alleged illegal acts.

"This indictment charges the former Chief-of-Staff at the Commerce Commission of using her position of authority to hire family members as special "consultants," to conduct personal business for her legal practice, of using public resources for her own benefit and enrichment, and of then covering-up the illegal conduct to thwart the Attorney General's investigation" said Attorney General Harvey. "This investigation and prosecution uncovered a gross example of corruption that revealed a pattern of alleged illegal activity by a senior public official who was more concerned about personal enrichment than the interests of New Jersey taxpayers."

Joining the Attorney General to announce the State Grand Jury indictment were Vaughn L. McKoy, Director, Division of Criminal Justice, Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent, New Jersey State Police, and representatives from the Attorney General's Office Special Prosecutions Bureau.

The State Grand Jury indictment charged Lesly Devereaux, 46, Azelea Place, Piscataway, Middlesex County, Lillian Harper (Devereaux's mother), 65, Everton Place, Riverside CA, and Candace Harper (Devereaux's sister), 42, Lake Woodard Drive, Raleigh, NC, with corruption-related charges. Specifically, the indictment charges Devereaux with criminal conspiracy to commit official misconduct (2nd degree), four counts of official misconduct (2nd degree), pattern of official misconduct (2nd degree), three counts of misapplication of entrusted property (3rd degree), theft by unlawful taking (3rd degree), two counts of tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), two counts of falsifying or tampering with records, and two counts of engaging in unlawful business transactions while performing official duties (4th degree). Lillian Harper is charged with criminal conspiracy to commit official misconduct (2nd degree), official misconduct (2nd degree), misapplication of entrusted property (3rd degree), and engaging in unlawful business transactions while performing official duties (4th degree). Candace Harper is charged with criminal conspiracy to commit official misconduct (2nd degree), two counts of official misconduct (2nd degree), misapplication of entrusted property (3rd degree), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), falsifying or tampering with records, and engaging in unlawful business transactions while performing official duties (4th degree). If convicted, the defendants face up to ten years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000 on each of the second degree counts, up to five years incarceration and a fine of up to $15,000 on each of the third degree charges, and up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000 on each of the fourth degree charges.

According to Criminal Justice Director McKoy, the Special Prosecutions Bureau investigation determined that in February, 2004, the Office of the State Auditor, which reports to the Office of Legislative Services (OLS), began an audit at the Commerce and Economic Development Commission. The auditors were repeatedly rebuffed in their request for Commerce Commission books and records and were advised that any and all requests for documents were to be submitted in writing and to flow through Chief-of-Staff Devereaux. In April, 2004, state auditors contacted the Division of Criminal Justice to request a criminal investigation. As a result of the eight-month criminal investigation, the State Grand Jury returned a 16-Count indictment charging Devereaux with using her official position to benefit herself and family members.

The State Grand Jury indictment alleges that from October, 2003 through June, 2004, Devereaux, as Chief-of-Staff and Vice-President of Operations for the New Jersey Commerce and Economic Growth Commission, utilized her state government position to benefit herself and several family members, including the hiring of Lillian Harper (mother) and Candace Harper (sister) as outside "consultants." The investigation determined that Candace Harper, while living in North Carolina, was paid $9,250 for consulting work to purportedly review vendor files and to develop a database of vendors for use by the Commission. It is charged in the indictment that the responsibilities assigned to Candace Harper were minimal and that any work actually performed by Candace Harper could have been completed in a relatively short period of time compared to that for which she was paid under the purported contract. The investigation determined that nine Commerce Commission checks were issued to Candace Harper two of the checks were endorsed, signed and cashed by Devereaux and four were co-endorsed and cashed by Devereaux.

The Special Prosecutions Bureau investigation determined that Lillian Harper (mother) was paid $2,275 as an independent consultant to proof read two Commerce Commission publications which had already been reviewed, edited and published by Commerce Commission staff. While no changes to the publications can be attributed to Lillian Harper's proof reading responsibilities, Harper was none-the-less paid public funds to perform non-existent services.

The indictment also alleges that in response to the OLS audit, Devereaux directed the creation of official documents authenticating the hiring of family members and the payment of public funds. As part of the attempt to cover-up the purported illegal acts, the indictment charges that Devereaux created and/or back-dated proposals and employment contracts for both Lillian and Candace Harper, payment vouchers, and other official documents.

Deputy Attorney's General Anthony Picione and Robert Czepiel of the Division of Criminal Justice - Special Prosecutions Bureau coordinated the prosecution and presented the case to the State Grand Jury. New Jersey State Police DSG Myles Cappiello, assigned to the Special Prosecutions Bureau, coordinated the ongoing investigation, along with Division of Criminal Justice State Investigator's Kiersten Pentony, Edward Augustyn, and Anthony Luyber. Additional investigative assistance was provided by the Division of Criminal Justice Computer Analysis & Technology Unit and state auditors from the Office of Legislative Services.

The indictment was handed up to Mercer County Superior Court Judge Maria Marinari Sypek on Dec. 6. The case is assigned to the Mercer County Superior Court for trial. The defendants will be issued a complaint summons requiring them to appear in Mercer County Superior Court for arraignment and bail.

In announcing the indictment, Attorney General Harvey noted that the Division of Criminal Justice - Special Prosecution Bureau has established a toll-free "Corruption Tipline" for the public to report corruption, financial crime, and other illegal activities. The statewide "Corruption TipLine" is: 1-866-TIPS-4CJ. Additionally, the public can log-on to the Division of Criminal Justice Web Page at www.njdcj.org to electronically report suspected wrongdoing. All information received via the Division of Criminal Justice "Corruption TipLine" will remain confidential.

A copy of the State Grand Jury indictment is available via the Division of Criminal Justice Web Page at www.njdcj.org.

The defendants are presumed innocent of the charges unless or until proven guilty in a court of law.

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