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CNBNEWS CHEERS AND JEERS MAY 2014

Ex-Elizabeth School Board Member Sentenced for Stealing from Free Lunch Program

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TRENTON – Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that Marie Munn, the former president of the Elizabeth School Board, was sentenced today for stealing from the Elizabeth School District’s free lunch program by filing false applications for her children.

Munn, 49, of Elizabeth, was sentenced by Superior Court Judge Robert J. Mega to three years of probation, conditioned upon her performing 300 hours of community service. The judge ordered Munn to perform her community service by assisting with a school lunch program, if possible. Munn was convicted at trial by a Union County jury on March 27 of third-degree charges of theft by deception and tampering with public records. Deputy Attorney General Veronica Allende tried the case and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Munn was charged as a result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and the State Police Official Corruption Bureau.

Munn filed false applications for her two children for the free and reduced-price lunch program that resulted in one or both children receiving benefits to which they were not entitled in each of the five consecutive school years 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10 and 2010-11. The federally funded program offers free and reduced-price lunches for students who otherwise might not be able to afford them. One of Munn’s children graduated in 2009, so only the remaining child received benefits in the last two years. As a result of the false applications, her children received $2,649 in benefits to which they were not entitled. Munn grossly understated her household income to obtain the benefits for her children. Her and her husband’s annual incomes exceeded the federal household income limit for the program by as much as $100,000 in 2008-09, and by $94,000 or more in three of the other years.

“A school board president should be about nothing but serving the children in her district, but Munn corruptly decided to serve herself instead and break the law,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Elizabeth is an Abbott district, so there are many schoolchildren there who need the free lunch program; Munn’s children certainly were not among them.”

“School districts spend millions each year to educate and serve their students, but when dollars are misappropriated or spent unlawfully to benefit district insiders, we will prosecute those cases vigorously, as we did here,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We are working hard to keep official misconduct out of our schools.”

Deputy Attorney General Mark Ondris presented the case to the state grand jury and conducted the investigation with Detective Sgt. 1st Class Lisa King of the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption North Unit. Analyst Kathleen Ratliff of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau provided assistance at trial. Deputy Attorneys General Emily Anderson and Sarah Ross of the Division of Criminal Justice Appellate Bureau provided appellate assistance at trial.

The investigation was launched by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau after an article in The Star-Ledger revealed that the children of officials in the Elizabeth school district were improperly participating in the federally subsidized school lunch program despite household incomes that exceeded the limits for eligibility.

Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau has established a toll-free Corruption Tip Line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice Web page at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing. All information received through the tip line or webpage will remain confidential.

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