$460,000 in quarters? That’s a lot of coin rolling. But Thomas Rica, a former employee of the borough of Ridgewood, N.J. was up to the task, furtively pocket-filling nearly two million quarters over two years that were taken from the town’s parking meter collection room. And Rica’s coworkers wondered why he always had change bouncing around in his pockets.
According to the Huffington Post on March 20, the former public works inspector “pleaded guilty Wednesday to four counts of theft. In return, prosecutors will recommend that he receive five years' probation and pay about $200,000 in restitution to Ridgewood.”
This is not the first time a state employee has lined their pocket with stolen money, and it won’t be the last, but to abscond with $460K in change means that Rica took over 1.8 million quarters – the equivalent weight of about six cars or three elephants.
The 43-year-old crook, from Hawthorn, N.J., was sacked by the town in January of last year after he was arrested for stealing $500 in quarters. But as investigators probed further, the thievery grew deeper. Officials estimate that nearly half a million in quarters was deposited into Rica’s various bank accounts.
“It was just temptation,” Rica's attorney Bob Galantucci said. “He was in a room with a lot of money. He was raising a family. As a result, he thought he would supplement his income with that.”
Ridgewood mayor Paul Aronsohn called the quarter theft “outrageous and seemingly incomprehensible,” adding that Rica “shamelessly and aggressively violated the public trust.”
Rica, a married father of two, won’t face jail time as a result of his plea deal. He was sentenced to five years probation and must repay $2,000 a month with an initial payment of $69,000. He also loses his annual pension of $30K and agrees to never, ever work for another municipality.
Not that anyone would have him.
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