Acting Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced today that Wildwood Mayor Peter J. Byron, former Mayor Ernest V. Troiano Jr., and current City Commissioner Steven E. Mikulski have been charged criminally for fraudulently participating in the State Health Benefits Program (SHBP).
Officials said Byron, 67, Troiano, 71, and Mikulski, 57, all residents of Wildwood, N.J., were each charged today by complaint-summons with second-degree theft by unlawful taking and third-degree tampering with public records or information.
The three current and former city officials were charged in an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) that began with a referral from the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits.
“Today we bring charges against current and former public and elected officials for what we allege are breaches of the public trust,” said Acting Attorney General Platkin.
“We will work tirelessly to root out public corruption and restore faith in our institutions.”
Since 2010, New Jersey law has required 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.
The investigation revealed that Byron, Troiano, and Mikulski were never eligible because they were never “full-time” employees as defined by state law.
They did not receive vacation, sick, or personal days, and maintained no regular schedule. It is alleged, however, that all three fraudulently enrolled in the SHBP and received publicly funded health benefits.
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. While Troiano and Byron did not work a regular full-time schedule or work at least 35 hours per week, they 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.
Mikulski became a member of Wildwood’s Commission in 2020. He enrolled in the SHBP and 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. It is alleged that he knowingly made false statements in a “Health Benefits Enrollment and/or Change Form” submitted to the City of Wildwood.
Deputy Attorney General Brian Uzdavinis is prosecuting the case for the OPIA Corruption Bureau under the supervision of Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione, with the assistance of Detectives of the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption South Unit.
Acting Attorney General Platkin thanked the New Jersey Division of Pensions and Benefits for their referral.
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.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.