Kathleen Peet, 37, of Rochelle Park (formerly Kathleen Sarmiento), was sentenced today to three years in state prison by Superior Court Judge Mitzy Galis-Menendez in Hudson County. She pleaded guilty on November 18 to a charge of second-degree theft by unlawful taking. In pleading guilty, Peet admitted that she stole a total of $87,857 from 2004 through 2013, while employed as the production manager for the Music, Dance and Theater Department. She is permanently barred from public employment and must pay full restitution. Peet previously paid $34,000 in restitution to the university, so she owes a balance of $53,587.
Deputy Attorneys General Cynthia Vazquez and Jane Khodarkovsky prosecuted Peet and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
“The box office receipts for the university’s music, dance and theater performances should have been a point of pride for Peet as production manager, and she should have carefully guarded them for the sake of the students in her department,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “Instead, she betrayed those students by selfishly stealing what they earned for the university through their talent and hard work.”
“White collar crime doesn’t just affect the bottom line, it affects people – in this case, the students involved in performing arts at this university,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “By sending this woman to prison, we send a powerful deterrent message to others who might engage in this type of embezzlement.”
As production manager, Peet was responsible for the box office receipts from performances of the Music, Dance and Theater Department. The funds were kept in a secure location under Peet’s control until she made a deposit in the Bursar’s Office, typically once or twice per semester. Peet admitted that she stole from the cash receipts while they were in her custody. The university made the initial discovery that the deposits made with the bursar did not match the box office receipts. An internal audit revealed a shortfall of approximately $60,000 from 2008 through 2013. Peet was suspended without pay in October 2013 and resigned the following month. The university referred the matter to the Division of Criminal Justice for further investigation. The investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice uncovered additional thefts prior to 2008 that brought the total to $87,587.
Detective Richard Lane and Deputy Attorney General Heather V. Taylor conducted the investigation for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione, who is Bureau Chief.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to confidentially report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. The public also can log on to the Division’s web page at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.