WILDWOOD, New Jersey (WPVI) -- The current and former mayors of Wildwood and a third city official are all facing theft and records tampering charges, Acting New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced Friday.
Wildwood Mayor Peter Byron, former Mayor Ernie V. Troiano Jr., and current City Commissioner Steven E. Mikulsk each facing charges of second-degree theft by unlawful taking and third-degree tampering with public records or information.
Authorities say the three city officials fraudulently participated in the State Health Benefits Program SHBP.
Since 2010, state law requires elected officials to be full-time employees "whose hours of work are fixed at 35 or more per week" in their elected positions to be eligible to participate in the SHBP and receive employer-provided healthcare.
Authorities say Byron, Troiano, and Mikulski fraudulently enrolled in the SHBP and received publicly funded health benefits when they were not eligible.
Troiano and Byron were elected to Wildwood's three-member City Commission in 2011, and Troiano was sworn in as mayor. Both men voted in 2011 to pass a resolution that declared themselves full-time employees working "a minimum of 35 hours per week" for Wildwood. They subsequently enrolled in the SHBP.
Authorities say both Troiano and Byron did not work at least 35 hours a week and allegedly falsely signed and submitted timesheets to the city indicating they worked full days Monday through Friday.
As a result, Wildwood and the SHBP paid over $286,500 in premiums and claims on behalf of Troiano from July 2011 through December 2019, and paid over $608,900 in premiums and claims on behalf of Byron from July 2011 through October 2021, the AG's office said.
Mikulski, who became a member of Wildwood's Commission in 2020 and enrolled in the SHBP, has since received publicly funded health benefits. Wildwood and the SHBP have paid over $103,000 in premiums and claims on his behalf through October 2021, according to investigators.
It is alleged that he knowingly made false statements in a "Health Benefits Enrollment and/or Change Form" submitted to the City of Wildwood.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.