A former troop commander for the New Jersey State Police pleaded guilty Tuesday to a theft charge for embezzling tens of thousands of dollars from a charitable fund that assists troopers and their families
Retired Acting Major Michael Mattia, 47, of Cedar Grove, pleaded guilty to an accusation charging him with third-degree theft by unlawful taking before Superior Court Judge Donald J. Volkert Jr. in Passaic County, according to Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman.
Under the plea agreement the state will recommend that Mattia be sentenced to a term of probation, conditioned upon him serving up to 364 days in the county jail. He will be permanently barred from public employment and public office in New Jersey and will have to pay $30,000 to the charitable fund and $19,000 to a trooper from whom he obtained a loan on false pretenses, according to Hoffman.
“Mattia betrayed his badge and those who served under him,” said Hoffman. “This guilty plea demonstrates that nobody is above the law—in fact, we hold police officers to the highest standards.”
Before retiring last year, Mattia supervised troopers in northern New Jersey as commander of Troop B in Totowa. He controlled the Troop B Health and Welfare Fund, a charitable fund that uses proceeds from sales of State Police apparel and other items to pay for scholarships and donations that benefit Troop B personnel and their families. In pleading guilty, Mattia admitted that he stole tens of thousands of dollars from the fund. He repaid part of the funds, but failed to return approximately $30,000, the attorney general said.
“The overwhelming majority of state troopers uphold the law and serve the people of New Jersey with honor and integrity,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “They work with us to maintain the public’s trust by ensuring that the few who break the law face justice.”
The state’s investigation revealed that, from August 2011, when he took control of the fund, through his retirement in April 2013, Mattia diverted approximately $55,500 from the bank account of the Troop B Health & Welfare Fund by making debit card withdrawals and writing checks to “cash” that he deposited into his personal bank account or cashed. He returned $8,500 to the fund by personal check in March 2013, and he deposited $17,000 in cash into the fund in May 2013, after being confronted about the fact that there was only $26 in the fund when he retired. The cash came from a $19,000 loan that Mattia obtained from a fellow trooper. Mattia falsely told the trooper that he needed money to pay his mortgage and his children’s tuition. Mattia has not repaid any part of the loan, according to officials.
When Mattia retired, the individual who took control of the Troop B Health & Welfare Fund discovered the low balance and alerted investigators in the State Police, who referred the matter to the Division of Criminal Justice. Deputy Attorneys General Heather Taylor and Jeffrey Manis took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, which conducted the investigation.
Judge Volkert scheduled sentencing for Mattia for March 14.