HACKENSACK, N.J. – The former public works inspector for a northern New Jersey town who admitted stealing $460,000 in quarters over two years has been spared a prison term.
A judge instead sentenced Thomas Rica on Wednesday to five years of probation.
Rica had worked in Ridgewood for 10 years before his arrest in January 2013. He pleaded guilty in March to four counts of theft as part of a plea deal that called for probation and restitution.
Rica lost his job after his arrest for taking $500 in coins from the town's parking meter collection room. Investigators later determined that he stole $460,000 overall.
The Record (http://bit.ly/1qWdYSN ) reported that Rica repeatedly apologized at the sentencing hearing for his actions.
Under the plea deal, the Hawthorne resident will pay back a little more than half of what he admits he stole. Critics have said Rica should have received some prison time and paid back all the money he stole, but Bergen County prosecutors have defended the deal.
Prosecutor Daniel Keitel told the newspaper the deal took months to negotiate and will "get as much of the money back to the public as quickly as possible." Had the state tried Rica for second-degree theft, Keitel said, he may have faced five years behind bars but would not have been legally bound to return any of the stolen money.
Rica's lawyer, Robert Galuntucci, handed Keitel a check on Wednesday for $64,337.55 — his client's initial down payment.
The deal calls for Rica, who also forfeited his $30,000 pension, to pay the village $2,000 a month for five years, for a total of $120,000. Ridgewood will also keep $4,000 it seized during a search of Rica's home following his arrest.
That puts Rica's restitution at just under $250,000.
If Rica misses a payment or is charged with another crime within those five years, he could get a prison term ranging from three to five years.
Information from: The Record (Woodland Park, N.J.), http://www.northjersey.com