Jersey City Police Chief Admits Stealing $31K From City’s Housing Authority

Former Jersey City Police Chief Phil Zacche pleaded guilty to charging the Jersey City Housing Authority more than $31,000 for security work he did not perform.

TRENTON — Phil Zacche, a Jersey City cop for 38 years who rose to the rank of police chief in 2014, admitted in federal court today to stealing tens of thousands of dollars from the Jersey City Housing Authority.

Zacche, 61, pleaded guilty to one count of theft concerning programs receiving federal funds in the fifth-floor courtroom of U.S. District Judge Freda Wolfson in Trenton this afternoon.

The charge comes with a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a potential $250,000 fine. As part of Zacche’s plea agreement, he agreed to forfeit $24,700.

Zacche becomes the 10th person who has pleaded guilty in a wide-ranging federal probe of the Jersey City police department focused on cops who improperly took money related to the off-duty jobs program.

This latest black eye for the city’s police department comes the same day it is mourning the loss of 49-year-old Lt. Christopher Robateau, who was struck and killed by a vehicle on the Turnpike on his way to work.

Zacche is the first to admit accepting money from a public agency instead of a private company. Others have said they either took money from companies without performing the work they were hired to do or accepted bribes from other cops in exchange for approving fraudulent pay vouchers.

Zacche admitted charging the JCHA for as much as $31,700 for work not performed after the agency hired him as security at the Marion Gardens public-housing complex between 2010 and 2014, prior to him becoming chief.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Vikas Khanna said in court today that federal prosecutors have phone records that would prove Zacche was “nowhere close” to Marion Gardens when he claimed to be working there.

Zacche spoke only briefly during today’s 30-minute court hearing, largely responding to yes-or-no questions from Wolfson. He declined to comment afterward.

“He made a decision that he regrets,” said his attorney, Anthony J. Iacullo. “We believe his years of service are not reflected in what happened here today.”

It’s not clear what federal prosecutors’ sentencing recommendation will be. Iacullo said that is still being worked out.

Rumors of Zacche’s implication in the federal probe have been swirling in September. He retired as police chief abruptly in June. Mayor Steve Fulop appointed his replacement, Michael Kelly, on Wednesday.

Zacche was once commander of the city’s north police district, where Juan Romaniello, the first cop to plead guilty in the off-duty bribery scheme, once worked. Romaniello, who died in July before he could be sentenced, was in charge of assigning off-duty jobs to officers out of the north district.

The city is taking credit for forwarding the allegations against Zacche to prosecutors in 2015.

“We have zero tolerance for corruption or misconduct and today’s actions speak to this,” said city spokeswoman Kim Scalcione. “We will continue to work with the federal authorities to root out corruption.”

Zacche was the second man Fulop appointed police chief after he became mayor in July 2013. He abruptly demoted the first, Robert Cowan, an action that led Cowan to level a host of accusations of political malfeasance directed at Fulop and James Shea, the city’s public-safety director.

Zacche is scheduled to be sentenced on April 9. The first of the other eight officers scheduled to be setenced in the bribery scheme is set to appear in court on Jan. 25.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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