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Grand jury re

Jan 28, 2024

WILDWOOD — Three local officials are again facing a dozen charges for fraudulently signing up for state health benefits, according to authorities.

Mayor Pete Byron, Commissioner Steve Mikulski, and former Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. were indicted by a grand jury on Monday, Attorney General Matthew Platkin said. The indictment reinstates charges including official misconduct, theft by unlawful taking, tampering with public records, and falsifying records.

In June, a judge dismissed the case without prejudice, meaning that prosecutors could present the evidence to a grand jury for a second time.

“The court stated in dismissing this indictment that the ruling was based on a technical deficiency and that the defendants’ other arguments were unconvincing. Today’s decision by the grand jury demonstrates the sufficiency of the evidence supporting these charges and the validity of this case, which we intend to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law," Platkin said.

Byron, a Democrat, and Troiano, a Republican, are accused of passing a resolution in 2011 declaring themselves full-time state employees to qualify for the State Health Benefits Program. Mikulski then also enrolled in the program when he took office in 2020, authorities said.

However, they didn't work the 35 hours per week required to qualify for the benefits as full-time employees, according to Platkin. Still, together they had the state pay for over $1 million in premiums and claims, officials said.

An attorney for Byron did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday.

As he faces state charges, Mayor Byron has also just been sentenced in federal court.

Byron was sentenced to three years of probation and fined $14,000 in U.S. District Court in Camden on Wednesday, the Cape May County Herald reported. He must also pay $7,014 in restitution.

The mayor pleaded guilty in March to two counts of willfully aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of fraudulent tax returns. He filed fraudulent tax returns in 2017 and 2018, U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger said.

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