Three arrested in Union High School burglary to pay restitution

UNION, NJ — Three of the nine people arrested for the theft of about $26,000 in cash from a Union High School secretary’s desk in June have received pretrial intervention and agreed to pay restitution, a court official said.

Kevin Rea, Marlon Roberts and Joshua Cipriano will each pay $2,250 in restitution, an official said. They were charged with burglary and theft in the June 29 incident.

The charge for Nicholas Zuena, the son of former Union Board of Education Vice President Nancy Zuena, was dismissed, a court official said. Nicholas Zuena was initially charged with criminal trespass.

The burglary and theft charges for Christian Pereira, Jason Laurent and Fernando Cunha are pending grand jury, a court official said. Joshua Monica is scheduled for a pretrial disposition conference Feb. 21. The status of the unidentified 17-year-old juvenile’s case was not immediately clear.

Superintendent Gregory Tatum said last year at a Nov. 21 school board meeting that the board had asked the Union County Prosecutor’s Office to seek restitution for the cash that authorities say was stolen.

He also said an auditor would present recommendations on Dec. 19 about the student activities account from which the cash was stolen.
When reached by phone asking about the audit Feb. 9, school spokeswoman Akua Boakye referred LocalSource to Tatum, who did not return a message left at his office seeking the auditor’s recommendations.

Union Board of Education President Vito Nufrio said in a Feb. 12 phone interview that any recommendations brought to the superintendent’s attention would be for him to address and then go through an approval process with the board.

He added that “many clubs and fundraisers were specifically itemized and detailed so that we at least have better oversight of the club activities” on the agenda.

Nufrio referred additional questions about the specific recommendations of the audit to School Businesses Administrator and board Secretary Gregory Brennan, who did not respond to a request for comment by press time this week.
School board policy states that cash schools receive for the student activities account should be deposited into the bank “promptly.” The student activities account collects fees for events such as prom.

During a September work session meeting, the school board discussed depositing funds within 48 hours and possibly collecting student activities fees online in order to reduce the amount of cash on hand in the school building.

One school board faction — which included Linda Richardson, Michelle Schulz and Sharon Sherry Higgins — repeatedly raised the issue of the theft during last year’s elections.

That faction’s campaign manager, Steven Le, put out a press release in October after his public records request showed that an additional $57,000 — including $45,000 in cash — was deposited into the school’s bank account one day after the June 2017 theft occurred.