Ex-Hillsborough maintenance director pleads guilty to stealing $137K from school district

HILLSBOROUGH - Anthony DeLuca, the former director of building and grounds for the Hillsborough School District, will be sentenced June 1 after he pleaded guilty Wednesday in federal court to stealing $137,000 from the district in a false overtime scheme.

The charge also alleges that DeLuca paid thousands of dollars in kickbacks to an unidentified individual for helping him submit those claims.

That unidentified individual is labeled as a co-conspirator and is not charged in the court document.

DeLuca is free on $50,000 bail.

He will be sentenced at the discretion of the judge. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

DeLuca has agreed to make full restitution to the school district.

In a letter to parents on Wednesday, Hillsborough Board of Education President Paul Marini wrote that the "district has fully cooperated with all requests from federal, state and local authorities and it has shared the results of the district's internal reports as the investigation was ongoing."

Marini also wrote that the investigation is ongoing.

"We will continue to inform the community as additional information becomes publicly available," he wrote.

Marini also stated that the charges against Marini are "consistent with the Board of Education's independent findings over the past year."

Marini also wrote that the district has "implemented significant changes to ensure the integrity of the organization and its business operations."

DeLuca was promoted to the director position in July 2019. That position was created at the urging of the unidentified individual, according to court papers.

DeLuca and the unidentified individual signed the contract which called for him to receive an annual salary of $120,000.

The contract said DeLuca was not entitled to overtime, but the two schemed for DeLuca to submit overtime claims that the unidentified individual would approve so the two could split the money, according to court papers.

Shortly after DeLuca was promoted, the two agreed that the unidentified individual would assign overtime work to DeLuca though his contract had no overtime provisions, court papers say.

In addition, DeLuca and the unidentified individual agreed that DeLuca would submit overtime claims for work he had not performed, according to court papers.

For example, the unidentified individual would tell DeLuca how many overtime hours he should fraudulently claim, which court papers say, "substantially" exceeded any overtime work that DeLuca had actually done.

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After DeLuca got paid, the charge says, he would withdraw the unidentified individual's share in cash, place it in an envelope and travel to either his office or vehicle to deliver it.

DeLuca received text messages from the unidentified individual with instructions how to deliver the cash.

From July 2019 to January 2022, DeLuca received about $137,000 in overtime and paid thousands to the co-conspirator, court papers say.

DeLuca waived in open court prosecution by indictment.

Earlier this month, Marini announced that the school board will form a committee to delve into the financial issues that led the former superintendent of schools and business administrator to leave the school district a year ago.

Under auspices of the larger Operations/Finance committee, the ad hoc committee will review the "investigation into events from a year ago," Marini said.

In January 2022, then-Superintendent of Schools Lisa Anthunesa took a leave of absence soon after the resignation of former Business Administrator Aiman Mahmoud in December 2021, during an investigation into school finances by the Somerset County Prosecutor's Office.

According to Marini, the goal of the committee is "to assess the impact of the outcomes of the investigation and make formal recommendations to the full board regarding the actions to be taken."

The committee also will create a report that will be presented to the full board for approval and released to the public.

The committee will also recommend policy revisions or structural changes based on concerns raised in the investigation.

In December 2021, Antunes's leave began two days after Mahmoud resigned. Mahmoud served as business administrator since January 2008. After a four-month leave of absence, Antunes resigned in April.

It's second time in less than a decade that the school district has been hit with a financial scandal.

In 2018, former Hillsborough High School Athletic Director Michael Fanizzi was charged with stealing stole ticket proceeds from athletic events over a five-year period.

Aa three-month investigation found that Fanizzi received reimbursement checks from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) between 2013 and 2017 while employed as athletic director.

The checks were intended to be deposited into the Hillsborough Board of Education account as reimbursement for high school athletic event services.

Fanizzi deposited the NJSIAA checks into the athletic department’s bank account in place of cash ticket sales, and allegedly kept portions of the cash proceeds which were generated from the events.

The investigation revealed $10,704 of unaccounted cash was missing from the athletic department.

Fanizzi was accepted into a pre-trial intervention program on the condition he make full restitution to the school district.

Email: mdeak@mycentraljersey.com

Mike Deak is a reporter for mycentraljersey.com. To get unlimited access to his articles on Somerset and Hunterdon counties, please subscribe or activate your digital account.

This article originally appeared on MyCentralJersey.com: Ex-Hillsborough maintenance director pleads guilty to stealing $137K from school district