October 8, 2019 | Number of The Day
Former employees of New Brunswick Water Dept. sentenced for taking bribes

Two former employees of the New Brunswick Water Department were sentenced to prison on Friday for schemes to reduce the water and sewer bills of numerous customers in return for bribes. The pair, one a meter reader, the other a senior account clerk, pleaded guilty in April 2018. Each was sentenced to five years in state prison.

Joseph “Gordo” DeBonis and William “Billi” Ortiz illegally reduced water and sewer bills for roughly 50 different properties over several years in return for bribes totaling approximately $20,000. In a second scheme, Ortiz would solicit bribes from customers in exchange for which he offered to switch out the customer’s water meter and install a faulty, antiquated brass meter — which he nicknamed the “thief” — that would keep the customer’s bill down by failing to record water usage. Ortiz would leave the properly working electronic meter on the premises and connected to power, and he would tell the customer to swap back the electronic meter near the end of the month so the bill would not be suspiciously low.

“By taking bribes and allowing customers to steal up to half a million dollars in city utility services, DeBonis and Ortiz profited at the expense of city residents,” said state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. “These prison sentences demonstrate that we have zero tolerance for public employees who unlawfully use their positions of trust for personal gain.”