The director of the Passaic County government garage is facing three to five years in state prison after pleading guilty to official misconduct charges Monday for stealing a large amount of cash found hidden in a car that was seized by police and for stealing an engine from a second vehicle.
Paolo “Paul” Mariano, 53, of Wayne, pleaded to two counts of second-degree official misconduct before state Superior Court Judge Marilyn C. Clark in Paterson, state Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor said. One count is for the theft of cash, and the second is for the theft of the engine. The charges stem from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
Under a plea agreement, Mariano faces a three to five year term and he must pay the county $20,000 in restitution. Mariano also forfeited his position as director of the county garage, and he will be permanently barred from public employment.
“The cash stolen by Mariano would have been subject to forfeiture to fund further law enforcement efforts,” state Attorney General Paula T. Dow said. “By stealing from the public, he betrayed the trust placed in him as a county official.”
“You could call this a crime of opportunity,” Taylor said. “Mariano certainly seized his opportunity to behave corruptly.”
Mariano admitted that he stole cash totaling approximately $20,000 that was found inside a 2000 Ford Taurus that was seized during a narcotics investigation by the Passaic County Drug Task Force in 2004. The car was being repaired for use as an undercover car in 2005 when county mechanics found the cash in a hidden compartment. They found several stacks of $100 bills. The mechanics told Mariano, who took possession of the car and cash, directing them not to report anything. Mariano then had a mechanic disassemble the car.
Mariano also admitted that in November 2006, he directed mechanics to remove an engine from a 1995 Toyota 4-Runner that had been seized by the county. He had the mechanics place the engine into a 1993 Toyota 4-Runner that he had given to his girlfriend but titled in his own name. The stolen engine was in better condition than the one it replaced. Mariano sold that car, with the stolen engine, to an undercover detective on May 14, 2010 for $2,000.
Judge Clark scheduled Mariano to be sentenced on April 21.
Deputy Attorney General Vincent J. Militello is prosecuting the case. The investigation was led by Militello, Deputy Chief Paul Castellvi, Det. Scott Donlan, and Det. Harry Maronpot Jr. They were assisted by Sgt. David Salzmann and Detectives Laura Clarke, Ruben Contreras and Nick Olenick.
Taylor noted that the Division of Criminal Justice - Corruption 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’s web site at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing. All information received through the tipline or web page would remain confidential.
-TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM