John Robert Marion, 44, of Valdosta, Georgia, pleaded guilty today to a charge of third-degree theft by deception before Superior Court Judge Peter E. Warshaw in Mercer County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Marion be sentenced to up to 364 days in the county jail as a condition of a term of probation. He must pay full restitution of $321,008 and is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey. The charge stems from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the State Police Official Corruption Bureau. The investigation began with a referral from the Pension Fraud & Abuse Unit in the New Jersey Division of Pensions.
Deputy Attorney General Julia Zukina handled the prosecution of the case and took the plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 8.
Marion was employed as a police officer in Waldwick, N.J., from 1998 through March 2008, when he retired on a disability pension, claiming medical and stress-related conditions. His disability pension was approved in August 2008, but was made effective as of April 1, 2008. Until his pension was terminated earlier this year, Marion collected approximately $3,614 per month in disability pension benefits from the New Jersey Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS). He collected a total of approximately $321,008.
After the New Jersey Division of Pensions learned that Marion was working as a law enforcement officer in Georgia, it referred the case to the Division of Criminal Justice and the New Jersey State Police. The state’s investigation revealed that, since August 2009, Marion has held successive positions as a law enforcement officer in Georgia with the Clinch County, Echols County and Lowndes County Sheriffs’ Offices. He applied for a Special Agent position with the South Georgia Drug Task Force just four days after his disability pension was approved in New Jersey. With the exception of about five months in 2010, he has been continuously employed since August 2009 without any restrictions on his duties. He currently is employed as an investigator for the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office.
“It’s reprehensible that this officer, who took an oath to uphold the law, fraudulently collected hundreds of thousands of dollars from a disability pension on top of the full-time salary he received in Georgia,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “He selfishly drained away assets that are needed to pay the legitimate pensions of officers who courageously continue to serve the people of New Jersey.”
“We’re working closely with the Division of Pensions and Benefits and the State Police to safeguard the state’s pension funds and send a strong deterrent message that this type of fraud will not be tolerated,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge anyone with information about pension fraud to contact us confidentially so that we can hold those involved accountable.”
When the Division of Pensions learned of Marion’s employment in Georgia, he was asked to return to New Jersey for a psychological re-evaluation regarding his pension. During the re-evaluation, Marion lied to the evaluator, stating that he was not employed and had not been employed since his retirement, with the exception of a stint as a store clerk and delivering furniture for a relative.
The case was investigated by the State Police Official Corruption Bureau, as well as Sgt. James Scott of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. The Division of Pensions investigation was conducted by Acting Director Susan Grant and Investigator John Sloth. Acting Attorney General Hoffman thanked the Pension Fraud & Abuse Unit of the Division of Pensions for their referral.
Acting Attorney General Hoffman and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free tip line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to confidentially report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. The public can also log on to the Division’s webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing.