A retired South Jersey police officer who served as president to his local police union pleaded guilty to embezzling about $105,000 from the organization to use toward home improvements, utility bills and luxurious time shares.
Former Cape May police officer John Campbell pleaded guilty to a third-degree theft charge in Cape May County Superior Court Thursday, New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino said.
State investigators found that Campbell, 48, stole tens of thousands of dollars over a five-year period while serving as president and state delegate of New Jersey Policemen’s Benevolent Association Local 59 in Cape May. The union represents about 230 members of Cape May County’s law enforcement community.
“Campbell was entrusted with access to the credit and checking accounts of his PBA local, but rather than living up to his duties as a police officer and leader of this union, he corruptly chose to embezzle over $100,000,” Porrino said in a statement. “This was a crass betrayal by a man who took an oath to uphold the law.”
While serving as Local 59 president from 2012 to 1026, Campbell used about $30,000 for times shares in the Caribbean, Mexico and Florida as well as $16,000 toward his gas, electric and cable bills, prosecutors said.
He spent thousands on clothing, jewelry, electronics, furniture and cabinets, prosecutors said. He also spent about $5,000 on convenience store and gas station purchases.
He even spent $500 on a designer Christmas tree, prosecutors said.
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The betrayal, uncovered during a PBA Local 59 leadership transition in July 2016, was felt by police around the Garden State.
“Campbell chose to selfishly lavish himself with gifts, trips, jewelry and electronics with more than $100,000 of stolen union funds, which are often diverted to charitable organizations that help our communities,” New Jersey State Police Superintendent Col. Rick Fuentes said. “Citizens can take solace in the fact that the law enforcement community that Campbell was once a part of, but since betrayed, has held him accountable for his actions.”
As part of the plea deal, the state will recommend that Campbell get a 364-day sentence in county jail, repay the $105,000 and pay up to a $15,000 fine when he faces sentencing in November, the AG said.
Local 59 recently instituted strict financial policies and procedures, current PBA Local 59 president Michael Szemcsak, a Lower Township patrolman, said in a statement
“Our board was disturbed to find a number of financial inconsistencies in the accounting and accounting practices for the PBA in previous years,” Szemcsak said. “The trust of our members and supporters have in us to be good stewards of donations and membership fees is essential to the association’s viability.”
Officials hope the punishment serves as a deterrent to anyone tasked with managing money from a nonprofit.
“This guilty plea should deter others in positions of trust who might consider stealing from the organizations and people they are appointed to serve,” Division of Criminal Justice Director Elie Honig said.