A former Jersey City Planning Board member and local union official pled guilty on Jan. 7 to conspiring to embezzle more than $1 million from the union to support his luxurious lifestyle that included a Manhattan apartment, a boat and a Martha’s Vineyard condo.
Carmelo “Joe” Sita was arrested on Dec. 13, 2001 and charged in a 59-count indictment with ripping off the Hudson County District Council of the Laborers Intl. Union of N. America, officials at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark said. Sita served as the union’s executive manager of benefit funds, business manager and secretary-treasurer.
During questioning by U.S. Dist. Court Judge Dennis M. Cavanaugh, Sita admitted embezzling $1,062,787 from the dist. council between 1995 and 1999. He admitted having checks issued to himself from 8 separate union funds, including those which paid union members’ medical coverage, retirement benefits and vacation pay, court papers say. Sita also admitted that from Jan. 1997 to Dec. 1998 he falsified accounting entries in an attempt to conceal his crime and filed false information regarding the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act.
Sita used the embezzled funds to pay for the Martha’s Vineyard property and his boat, his monthly credit cards debts, mortgage payments, lease payments on luxury vehicles, personal taxes and other items. The plea agreement states Sita must immediately forfeit $850,000 through the sale of the Martha’s Vineyard condo and his Mountainside home. Federal authorities say they also seized $188,000 from one of Sita’s bank accounts at Provident Bank and that will be applied to the forfeiture sum as well. The government will also take half of any money Sita makes while working in a prison job, court papers say.
Sita must also file accurate tax returns for 1995 through 1999 and either pay what he owes or make arrangements for a payment plan to do so, court papers say. When he is sentenced on April 11, Sita faces a maximum prison term of five years and fines of up to $2 million, double what he stole, court papers say. [Jersey Journal, 1/8/05]