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Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone and His Wife Charged with Official Misconduct August 26, 2009

Posted by jefhenningeresq in News.
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Another day in New Jersey, another politician indicted.  As a politician myself and a white collar crime attorney, I pay special attention to these cases.  Some people come up with amazing schemes while other people just make mistakes. I don’t know Chiappone, but this doesn’t seem like a big scheme.  Are you seriously going to throw away everything for $8000?

I really want to know how this campaign operated.  I am sure there was a treasurer that handled all of the money.  That person seems to be missing from this  press release.  In any campaign, there are many people involved and all of them need to be interviewed.

In addition, I would want to see all bank records from this campaign, other campaigns as well as personal bank accounts.  As an attorney, you not only need to know the entire scope of the case but you need to see if another hammer is going to drop at some point.  If all of the records show that this was an isolated incident, it is more likely that this was a paperwork snafu and not a big scheme to pocket money. 

Should be an interesting case, especially since Chiappone refuses to step down.  I am really skeptical about his wife’s participation in this.  In my own practice, I’ve seen the “squeeze play” before where the wife is indicted in hopes that the husband falls on the sword to save her.

TRENTON – Attorney General Anne Milgram announced that New Jersey Assemblyman Anthony Chiappone and his wife were indicted today on charges they conspired to funnel more than $8,000 in state-issued paychecks for a legislative aide and a purported aide into their own personal bank accounts and Chiappone’s 2005 Assembly campaign.

They allegedly had $7,532 in paychecks issued to one legislative aide, who donated all of his checks to the campaign. The defendants allegedly diverted $4,299 of those checks into their bank accounts for personal use, as well as a $629 paycheck issued to a woman they claimed was another legislative aide.

While the remaining checks from the male aide did get deposited into the campaign’s bank account, the defendants allegedly failed to include those contributions in reports filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC). Chiappone, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2003, lost the Democratic primary in June 2005, but was elected to the Assembly again in November 2007. He is running for re-election in November.

“We charge that Assemblyman Chiappone and his wife conspired to have the state issue more than $8,000 in paychecks for legislative aides, knowing that the money was really destined for the couple’s own pockets or his re-election campaign,” said Attorney General Milgram. “This indictment chronicles a betrayal of the public trust by this elected official.”

According to Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni, Assemblyman Chiappone, 51, of Bayonne, who represents the 31st Legislative District, and his wife, Diane Chiappone, 54, were charged in a seven-count state grand jury indictment with conspiracy (2nd degree), two counts of official misconduct (2nd degree), theft by deception (3rd degree), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), falsifying or tampering with records (4th degree), and concealment or misrepresentation of contributions or expenditures (4th degree).

The indictment alleges that in 2005, Anthony and Diane Chiappone conspired to have 13 state paychecks totaling $7,532.96 issued to a man who was a legislative aide to Assemblyman Chiappone, knowing that the checks would actually be deposited into the personal bank accounts of the couple or the 2005 Chiappone for Assembly campaign account.

The aide, who is not named in the indictment, donated all of the paychecks he received to the 2005 Chiappone for Assembly campaign. However, instead of depositing all of the checks into the campaign’s bank account, Anthony and Diane Chiappone allegedly deposited eight of the checks totaling $4,299.32 into their own bank accounts for their personal use.

The defendants did deposit the other five paychecks totaling 3,233.64 into the 2005 Chiappone for Assembly campaign account. However, those checks were not reported in the campaign contribution and expenditure reports they filed with ELEC. Moreover, it is alleged the defendants falsely certified that contributions to the campaign did not exceed ELEC limits, even though the aide’s checks exceeded the limit of $2,600 for contributions from a single individual.

The indictment further alleges that in April 2004, Anthony and Diane Chiappone conspired to have a state paycheck in the amount of $629.47 issued to a woman who they claimed was a legislative aide to Chiappone. In fact, the woman, who is not named in the indictment, did not work as his aide. The woman endorsed the check, and the defendants allegedly deposited it into their own joint bank account.

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