MOUNT HOLLY - Burlington County Prosecutor Robert D. Bernardi announced today that two former Cinnaminson Sewerage Authority employees have pleaded guilty to using their positions at the authority for personal financial gain.
Carmelo Colon, age 28, of Dartmouth Avenue in Cinnaminson, pleaded guilty to one count of Official Misconduct (Second Degree). Under terms of the plea agreement, he will be sentenced to five years in state prison and must serve two years before being eligible for parole. Colon is the son-in-law of the late Paul Phillips, the former CSA superintendent who was also charged with corruption.
Mike Colon, age 24, of Morgan Avenue in Cinnaminson, pleaded guilty to one count of Official Misconduct (Second Degree). Under terms of the plea agreement, he will be sentenced to five years in state prison. Sentencing for both defendants has been set for November 15.
The Colons are the only defendants in the CSA corruption probe to plead guilty thus far. Following a lengthy investigation into corruption at the agency, 10 individuals, including seven CSA employees, were arrested in February 2012.
The charges include stealing authority equipment, creating fraudulent invoices to order items such as televisions, grills and motorcycle parts for personal use and operating a private business that used materials and supplies paid for by the authority.
Carmelo Colon’s charge involves operating a private enterprise on company time. Mike Colon was charged with obtaining items for personal use.
(More detail is under Background).
Two of the defendants have died since charges were filed.
One was CSA Superintendent Paul Phillips, age 54, of Cinnaminson. Phillips had been charged with three counts of Official Misconduct, three counts of Conspiracy to Commit Official Misconduct, three counts of Corruption of Public Resources, Falsifying/Tampering with Records, three counts of Conspiracy – Corruption of Public Resources, three counts of Theft, Conspiracy to Commit Theft and Tampering with Witnesses.
The other defendant who is deceased is CSA mechanical sub-contractor Joseph B. Lehman of Cinnaminson. He was charged with Theft, and Conspiracy to Commit Theft. Lehman died in a motorcycle accident in Cherry Hill in October 2012 at the age of 27.
Charges are still pending against the following individuals:
CSA Assistant Superintendent William Yannarella, age 53, of 402 Ithaca Avenue, Delran, N.J. Charges include two counts of Official Misconduct, two counts of Conspiracy to Commit Official Misconduct, Theft, Conspiracy to Commit Theft, Corruption of Public Resources, Conspiracy – Corruption of Public Resources.
CSA Operator Jeffrey Lehman, age 22, of 2410 Nassau Road, Cinnaminson, N.J. Charges three counts of Official Misconduct, three counts of Conspiracy to Commit Official Misconduct, three counts of Theft, two counts of Conspiracy to Commit Theft and Corruption of Public Resources.
Joseph J. Lehman Jr., age 62, 2410 Nassau Road, Cinnaminson, N.J. Charges include Theft and Conspiracy to Commit Theft.
CSA part-time employee Scott Mayes Jr., age 21, of 35 Dartmouth Drive, Delran, N.J., was charged with Corruption of Public Resources and Conspiracy – Corruption of Public Resources.
CSA employee Scott Mayes, age 53, of 35 Dartmouth Drive in Delran, N.J., was charged with one count of Theft of Services. The complaint alleges that Mayes, an electrician for the CSA, used a rented mini-excavator at his residence and had the agency cover the $480 rental cost. Mayes is the brother-in-law of CSA Superintendent Paul Phillips. His son, a former part-time CSA worker, was also charged in connection with the investigation.
Shawn Lehman, age 24, of 2410 Nassau Road, Cinnaminson, N.J., was charged with one count of Receiving Stolen Property. Lehman is accused of receiving motorcycle parts, including two new tires, as part of a scam that utilized fraudulent invoices to receive personal items that were paid for with CSA funds. Two of Lehman’s brothers and his father have also been arrested in connection with the cases. One of the brothers is an employee and the other is a CSA contractor.
The investigation revealed that CSA Superintendent Phillips, Assistant Superintendent Yannarella, Jeffrey Lehman and Carmelo Colon were involved in the operation of a private environmental company identified as J&B Environmental Services that provided sewer maintenance to the Wyndham Hotel in Mount Laurel.
In some instances, this work was performed by CSA employees at the direction of Phillips during regular work hours for the sewerage authority. Parts and supplies were ordered by Phillips and paid for by the CSA that were specifically intended to be used at the Wyndham Hotel. For instance, in November 2011, a CSA employee took a 55-gallon drum of chemicals from CSA’s stock and used it to service the hotel’s system. The chemicals were valued at more than $1,800.
The investigation further revealed that Phillips utilized CSA funds to fraudulently order items for his and other CSA employees’ personal use from a business in Camden known as Contractor Services. The fraud was perpetrated with the help of a sales manager at the business. No charges have been filed yet against that person.
Many of the items ordered were designed for use in specific motor vehicles registered to CSA employees. These included items that can be used in vehicles or recreational vehicles such as back-up cameras, Global Positioning System units, in-dash Pioneer audio-visual receivers, speakers, towing accessories, a 10-gallon recreational vehicle water heater, window deflectors, vacuum cleaners, televisions, ATV tires & chains, George Foreman grills and entertainment centers.
The total merchandise and services ordered through Contractor Services and illegitimately received by Phillips and other CSA employees is approximately $44,000. Some of these items were passed on by Phillips to CSA employees such as Yannarella, Jeffrey Lehman, Joseph B. Lehman, Carmelo Colon and Mike Colon.
Additionally, Jeffrey Lehman and his father, Joseph L. Lehman Jr., is charged with illegally taking possession of a CSA backhoe and taking it to their property in Scot Run, Pa. for personal use as well as work-for-hire purposes.
CSA Superintendent Paul Phillips reported to township officials that the backhoe was in need of extensive repairs. The backhoe was in proper working order when recovered by the Cinnaminson Police Department at the Lehman’s property in December 2011.