By Christina Paret – @christinaparet
Former Toms River School District Superintendent Michael J. Ritacco who is serving 11 years in prison for pleading guilty to two counts of mail fraud and conspiracy to impede the IRS, has left his former school district with many challenges as they struggled to repair their tarnished reputation that his scandal caused.
In order to rebuild trust in the community, the district must now prove that they are conducting business properly and must be very transparent in their operations.
The District has taken new security measures to insure this never happens again which includes new insurance brokers who bid on contracts every three years, preventing automatic continuity.
The Toms River Regional School district’s website now provides a schedule of all board meetings, the agendas, attachments, and minutes of every meeting along with audio.
According to the Districts website, there is still one member of the board who remains from the Ritacco era, Loreen Torrone, who according to the website, is the chair of both the curriculum committee and the insurance committee and is also a part of the personnel committee.
Torrone was previously a part of the board from 2006-2009 and according to her she was the only person who ever voted against Mr. Ritacco’s contract because she “felt it was too rich for the tax payers of Toms River.” She also says she was “forced off the board by Ritacco’s political machine”.
She was elected to a three-year term in 2011 and re-elected to a three-year term on January 6, 2015.
Her goals are “to restore the faith of the community in our system. Openness on all levels is now required to regain the trust of the community.”
The scandal caused a low impact to students as classes and activities resumed as they normally would.
Ritacco is currently serving his sentence at Federal Medical Center, Devens which according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, is a federal prison in Massachusetts for male inmates requiring specialized or long-term medical or mental health care.
Ritacco, who was also the districts Business Administrator, was a part of an 8-year scheme that funneled up to $2 million by inflating insurance contracts by almost $600,000 a year.
His co-conspirators include Francis Gartland, Frank Cotroneo, and Frank D’Alonzo.
Francis Gartland, former owner of Federal Hill Management is serving time at Federal Correctional Institute, Fort Dix, and is expected to be released on August 31st 2022.
Frank Cotroneo, a former insurance broker, is serving his time at Federal Correctional Institute, Allenwood in Pennsylvania and is expected to be released on October 21st of this year.
Frank D’Alonzo, the former supervisor of athletics and special projects received the lowest sentence of all the men as he was only involved in the scheme for approximately five years from 2002 to 2006 while Ritacco and Gartland’s scheme began as early as 1998.
He was released on October 19th 2015 and now has three years of supervised release.
The school Districts loss was totaled to $4,336,987.91 and is therefore entitled to that amount in restitution from the criminals.
Each of the conspirators are required to forfeit money and property as a form of restitution to the victims, the Toms River School District.
As a part of a plea agreement, Ritacco has already forfeited $1 million, a 2010 Mercedes Benz, and $8,950 in cash.
Ritacco and Gartland are both liable for the total amount of restitution of $4,336,987.91 and D’Alonzo is liable for a portion of the restitution, $1,625,952.79.
The government has also required that Gartland forfeit $11,880,233.44 and D’Alonzo must forfeit $4,317,111.40 to the federal government which Gartland is also jointly liable for.
Before the scandal, Ritacco, who began his career as a fifth and sixth grade teacher, was Superintendent for 18 years to what was once the fourth largest school district in New Jersey with a total of 18 schools.
His name was even used to title the towns 3,500 seat concert and sporting arena, which was covered by a tarp when the scandal was first revealed and then immediately renamed once the corruption was proven.
According to the Toms River School District website, David M. Healy is the current superintendent and William J. Doering is the Business Administrator.