UNION COUNTY — It appears there was more than one vendor giving kickbacks to the former county employee who defrauded the county out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Richard Greer, 54, owner of Positive Attitude, a commercial vendor from Marlboro who dealt with former facilities management director Niel Palmieri, 57, admitted to FBI authorities he also became involved in a scheme that defrauded the county out of $120,000. That makes a total of close to a quarter million dollar the county never saw as a result of two vendors working in conjunction with Palmieri to pad their own pockets.
Greer was charged with one count of conspiracy to commit mail fraud, but no additional charges were levied against Palmieri.
Palmieri, of Toms River, resigned from the position he held for 23 years just a few days before appearing in federal court to plead guilty to mail fraud charges in October.
The former county director was responsible for the management and maintenance of the buildings owned and operated by the county. The director oversaw the purchasing of millions of dollars in building materials, tools, hardware, janitorial supplies and other supplies used by various divisions of the facilities management department.
According to court documents filed by the FBI, the first vendor, Frank Vicendes, 48, owner of Viva Group of Warren, gave Palmieri kickbacks in cash, gift cards, expensive appliances and gym equipment in order to continue doing business with the county department director. The Viva group dealt specifically with building maintenance and repair, commercial and industrial services.
Pamieri apparently conspired with Vicendes, of Berkeley Heights, to submit fake invoices for items never provided to the county.The mail fraud took place when Palmieri sent checks through the U.S. Postal system to Vicendes, which violated federal law.
According to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, from 2006 through 2011, Greer made “cash bribe payments” to Palmieri of $500 per month in exchange for ensuring continued Union County business with Positive Attitude. Greer then generated fictitious invoices to the county for industrial cleaning products to cover the monies paid to Palmieri, often including a profit for himself above the kickback he was paying to the county department head.
FBI officials reported that Positive Attitude received $120,000 to $200,000 in fraudulent proceeds from these fictitious invoices. Greer also used the mail to facilitate this scheme by having the county send the checks for payment to his company in Marlboro.
The charges come with a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. All three are scheduled to be sentenced in early 2014.
Palmieri, who faces 46 to 56 months in jail and Vicendes, who faces the same jail term, each agreed to pay $100,000 back to the county, while Greer will pay $185,000 in restitution to the county.
County officials were closed mouthed about the latest information, but sources indicated they were unaware the FBI was targeting a second vendor. Union County Public Information Director Sebastian D’Elia said the county is cooperating with the FBI investigation.
“We have cooperated with the U.S. Attorney’s Office as per this investigation and continue to do so,” he said, adding that the contract with Greer was obtained through public bidding. The county, D’Elia said, will no longer make any purchases through Positive Attitude and will investigate immediate termination of any contract.