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Byron Faces New Indictment Over Job With Lawyer He Helped Hire for City

Byron Faces New Indictment Over Job With Lawyer He Helped Hire for City

By Shay Roddy

Pete Byron appearing in Cape May County Superior Court in January.
Shay Roddy/File Photo
Pete Byron appearing in Cape May County Superior Court in January.

Beleaguered former Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron is facing new charges related to official misconduct, the state attorney general announced this week.

Byron allegedly abused his elected position by unlawfully pursuing and obtaining employment from an attorney who had a contract with Wildwood and held official appointed positions, and then failed to pay any state income tax on his earnings in that position, according to Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin.

A state grand jury returned an indictment against Byron April 16, a statement from the attorney general said. The former mayor was indicted on second-degree official misconduct, third-degree tampering with public records, fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records, two counts of third-degree failure to pay tax and two counts of third-degree filing a fraudulent return charges.

Byron is also accused of failing to properly identify the job as a source of income when submitting required annual financial disclosure statements to the state Department of Community Affairs.

“As alleged, the former mayor inappropriately used his power and influence for unlawful personal financial gain, betraying the public’s trust,” Platkin said in a statement. “Elected officeholders are expected to serve the public, not use their authority to line their own pockets.”

Byron did not respond to a message seeking comment.

In a separate state criminal case, Byron was indicted last year alongside Wildwood Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr. and Commissioner Steve Mikulski for fraudulently participating in the State Health Benefits Program. The state claims Byron and his co-defendants were never eligible for benefits because they weren’t “full-time” employees, as defined by state law, which requires elected officials to have work hours fixed at 35 or more per week.

Byron, Mikulski and Troiano have said they worked well over 35 hours a week attending to official city business.

In a third case, Byron was sentenced in federal court in Camden in August 2023 to three years’ probation for failing to pay federal income tax on a job that appears very similar to the one the state is now prosecuting him for taking and not reporting on tax returns.

According to the information to which Byron pleaded guilty to in the federal case, in September 2017 a lawyer at a Gloucester County firm, identified only in court documents as “Individual-1,” established a new business, and Byron was hired to do sales work for the company after receiving an offer letter with the forged signature of Individual-1’s law partner. Byron then made $40,425 in compensation from the company, which he failed to report or pay taxes on.

The Herald reported in August 2023 that it reviewed a copy of the offer letter to Byron and the newspaper identified the person the government was calling “Individual-1” as Douglas M. Long. The letter bears the forged signature of attorney Albert K. Marmero, Long’s former law partner, according to the information Byron pleaded guilty to in federal court.

In December 2021, Long was sentenced to 14 months in prison in his own federal tax case. He was previously on the Cumberland County Board of Chosen Freeholders and is the former co-chair of the Cumberland County Democratic Party. Long reportedly surrendered his law license as a result of the tax conviction in 2021.

It’s unclear what duties Byron, a Democrat, performed for the company, or how he was connected to Long. It’s also unclear what services the company, which the letter the Herald obtained identified as Hydro 2O LLC, performed.

In January 2017, Byron and his two fellow commissioners voted to hire Long to become Wildwood’s tax counsel at a rate of $150 per hour.

A public records request submitted by the Herald to the City of Wildwood for communications between Byron and Long revealed that the two scheduled lunches together at a Wildwood pizzeria and another location near Asbury Park in February and March of 2017.

In October 2017, Byron received the letter with the job offer containing the forged signature of Long’s law partner.

By September 2018, Byron had made more than $40,000 in compensation from the job.

According to the state attorney general, second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Fourth-degree offenses could lead to up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

The case is being prosecuted by Deputy Attorneys General Brian Uzdavinis and Niccole Sandora, under the supervision of the attorney general’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability Corruption Bureau Deputy Chiefs Andrew Wellbrock and Jeffrey J. Manis and Executive Director Thomas J. Eicher.

Byron will be represented by Deputy Public Defender Eric Shenkus, according to the attorney general’s release.

Contact the reporter, Shay Roddy, at sroddy@cmcherald.com or 609-886-8600, ext. 142.

Reporter

Shay Roddy is a Delaware County, Pennsylvania native who has always spent as much of his summers as he could at the Jersey Shore. He went to Friends’ Central and is a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University.

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