Former School Superintendent Charged with Mortgage Fraud

Allison Tussey —  June 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

James F. Habel, 56, Dunedin, Florida, previously of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey, a former school district superintendent is named in a pair of indictments by a Monmouth County, New Jersey, grand jury charging him with various schemes, including mortgage fraud totaling more than $1 million.

The defendant’s other schemes were aimed at fleecing the school district of more than $360,000 in fraudulently obtained vacation time payouts.  Habel is charged in the first indictment with second degree Official Misconduct, second degree Theft by Deception, 2 counts of second degree Mortgage Fraud, first degree Financial Facilitation of Criminal Activity, third degree Theft by Failure to Make Required Disposition of Property, and 8 counts of Falsifying or Tampering with Records.

The second indictment attaches Habel to the previous indictment handed up against his former assistant in the Wall Township school district, Sandra Brower, charging him with second degree Official Misconduct, second degree Conspiracy and fourth degree Obstructing the Administration of Law or Other Governmental Function.

The first indictment charges that Habel carried out a scheme to defraud the district of approximately $362,000 when he failed to notify the district of his absence and properly account for about 110 days when he was absent and outside the district, oftentimes on Fridays and Mondays. Upon retirement, Habel was paid approximately $93,000 for the 110 vacation days he never deducted from his accrued vacation balance.

As a separate and additional part of the scheme, Habel repeatedly cashed in vacation days and deposited the proceeds into tax-deferred accounts, yet failed to deduct the cashed-in vacation days from his accrued vacation balance. As a result, on several occasions during his tenure, Habel was the beneficiary of double-dipped payments of approximately $268,000 when his vacation balance was carrying in the negative.

As a further part of his scheme, Habel attempted to conceal his criminal activity by thwarting attempts by school district human resources officials to accurately record his attendance, directing subordinates to delete and destroy records that accurately accounted for his vacation day cash-ins and balance, and directing the district Information Technology (IT) director to delete certain e-mails from the school district’s computer server — an order that was disregarded. Habel also is charged with shredding, destroying or removing files from his office, all in an effort to conceal his criminal conduct.

Additionally, the first indictment charges Habel with two counts of theft, totaling more than $1 million, for committing mortgage fraud in acquiring loans to refinance his Point Pleasant  Beach, New Jersey, and Florida homes; as well as one count of theft of district-issued electronic equipment, including a personal computer, flat-panel monitor, laptop computer, cellular phone and iPad.

The last eight counts charge Habel with 8 counts of falsifying or tampering with records, all in an effort to carry out or conceal the aforementioned criminal activity.

The first degree Financial Facilitation of Criminal Activity charge comes with a mandatory minimum exposure of no less than 10 years in state prison, if convicted; and there is a mandatory minimum required sentence of five years in prison, if he is convicted on the second degree Official Misconduct charge.

If convicted, Habel would face 10-20 years in a New Jersey state prison for the first degree offense; 5-10 years on each of the second degree offenses; 3-5 years on the third degree charges and up to 18 months for each of the fourth degree charges.

Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced the charges.

This case is being prosecuted by Acting Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni and Assistant Prosecutor John Loughrey. The defendant is represented by Robert Honeker, Jr., Esq. of Ocean Township.

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