A Union County jury has returned guilty verdicts on all charges filed against a Union County Police Department officer who leveraged his status as a sworn member of law enforcement to further a scheme to illegally pay heavily reduced prices for collectibles purchased from local department stores on numerous occasions, acting Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay V. Ruotolo announced Friday.
Police say Blake Clay, 36, of Rahway was convicted on charges of theft, theft by deception, and official misconduct, all third-degree crimes, following a two-week trial before Union County Superior Court Judge Robert Kirsch and several hours of jury deliberation spread over two days.
An investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Unit revealed that Clay visited department stores in Clark, Edison, Linden, and Woodbridge multiple times over the course of several months in 2016, and used counterfeit barcodes to significantly lower the prices of various items when they would be rung up at the register, according to Union County Deputy First Assistant Prosecutor Derek Nececkas and Assistant Prosecutor Robert Rosenthal, who prosecuted the case.
This meant that on more than 10 occasions, Clay paid amounts of $1.50 to $4.50 for items actually ranging in price from $15.99 to $39.99.
Clay initially visited local Walmart department stores to carry out the scheme, but when confronted by a store employee on one occasion, he signed an agreement admitting to inappropriate conduct and promising not to enter any other Walmart locations nationwide.
Afterwards, he started executing the scheme in local Target department stores – and on multiple occasions, he did so while in full police uniform.
The total value of the thefts amounted to more than $600. Clay was served the charges against him via summons in May 2016, and he was suspended without pay while awaiting trial.
Sentencing in the case has been scheduled for Friday, November 15, before Judge Kirsch, at which time Clay will face a sentence of up to five years in state prison, with a mandatory minimum of two years to be served before the possibility of parole, and be permanently barred from future public employment in New Jersey.