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New Jersey public works inspector pockets $460,000 in quarters

A New Jersey public works inspector who certainly took his time committing his crime was in court this week for stealing thousands of dollars from the town he worked for...all in quarters.

Thomas Rica, who worked for the village of Ridgewood, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to four counts of third degree theft. Altogether, it is estimated that Rica stole about $460,000 in quarters over a 25-month period. That shakes out to an astonishing 1.8 million individual quarters.

Each count carries a sentence of up to five years probation, but notes that Rica will just serve five years of probation in addition to paying back everything he took over the upcoming course of the probationary period.

Rica was arrested and fired last year after it was revealed that he had taken $500 in quarters, but further investigation revealed how much bigger the crime was. Rather than taking big sums, Rica stretched the sticky-fingered streak across a two-year span, taking quarters little by little from the village's coin collection room. He then reportedly turned the quarters in at multiple bank branches before getting a receipt for deposit to avoid suspicion.

Though he technically did not have clearance to enter the coin collection room, Rica was given a master key "due to the nature of his job" and used it to access the quarters.

Rica is expected to pay back a lump sum of $69,000 at his sentencing, which will occur on June 6, and then $2,000 per month after that, according to the plea agreement. He also loses the pension and money for accrued time previously owed to him by the village and can never work for another municipality in the state.

Ridgewood Mayor Paul Aronsohn spoke out on the act, calling it “outrageous and seemingly incomprehensible” and a shameless and aggressive violation of the public trust. The village, meanwhile, says it will take security steps to ensure that such a theft does not occur in the future.

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