The current and former mayors of Wildwood, New Jersey, were charged Friday with allegedly participating fraudulently in the state's health benefits system, the state attorney general's office said.
Current Mayor Peter Byron, 67, former Mayor Ernest Troiano, 71 and a city commissioner, Steven Mikulski, 57, face second-degree theft by unlawful taking and third-degree tampering with public records.
Byron, Troiano, and Mikulski allegedly enrolled in the state's health benefits program even though they were not eligible, the attorney general's office said. None of the three were full-time employees of Wildwood, which is a requirement for enrollment, officials alleged.
Wildwood and the State Health Benefits Program paid over $286,500 in premiums and claims on behalf of Troiano from July 2011 through December 2019, and paid over $608,900 in premiums and claims on behalf of Byron from July 2011 through October 2021, the attorney general's office said.
Get Philly local news, weather forecasts, sports and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Philadelphia newsletters.
An attorney for Byron said the mayor "did nothing wrong" and that "he will be vindicated."
The case involves a change in the law in 2010 and a 2011 resolution by Wildwood council that stated an absolute fact that the elected officials work at least 35 hours a week. It was written by a lawyer and reviewed by a NJ certified business administrator and administrated by professional employees who never stated any concern until the State Police decided to investigate," Byron's attorney, Bill Hughes, said. "Rather than approach the city of Wildwood with their concerns about the resolution, they literally decided to make a criminal case about it. This prosecution is unwise and sends a bad message."
Troiano declined to comment on the case when reached by NBC10.