By John Burton
FREEHOLD — A former Hazlet fire commissioner pleaded guilty recently to fraudulently obtaining tens of thousands of dollars in death benefits intended for families of deceased firefighters.
Anthony Ciavarro, 45, the former commissioner, pleaded guilty on Friday Oct 28 to theft and fraud charging him with taking $30,000 in death benefits, Monmouth County Prosecutor Peter Warshaw Jr. said following the plea hearing in Superior Court.
Ciavarro, operating as the commissioner, was responsible for administrating the Fire District Benefits Program for his community. As Ciavarro appeared before Judge Francis P. DeStefano late last week, he admitted that, July-Oct. 2009, he used his position with the town’s department to take the money designated for widows of deceased fire department members. According to the prosecutor’s office, Ciavarro admitted in court he altered the documents sent to the underwriting insurance company, naming himself as the beneficiary and collecting the payments after the firemen’s deaths.
Law enforcement authorities arrested Ciavarro on June 17, and he was released from the Monmouth County Correctional Institution the next day after he posted a $55,000 bail.
The prosecutor’s office is expected to recommend Ciavarro receive a five-year prison sentence, as a term of the negotiated plea agreement. But the state mandates mandatory minimum prison terms for public employees convicted of certain crimes. And because of that requirement, the judge would have to impose a two-year period of parole ineligibility, the prosecutor’s office said.
The agreement also requires Ciavarro to make full financial restitution and would prohibit him from holding public office in the state.
Ciavarro is expected to appear in court again for sentencing on Feb. 24, the prosecutor’s office said.