Criminal Justice

Parents and lawyers scrutinized in claimed free-lunch scheme for kids of school district insiders


An investigation of school lunch programs in New Jersey has determined that there is widespread abuse by school district employees and even some school board members, authorities say.

In addition to obtaining a free lunch for children who do not qualify, the claimed scheme brings additional state funding to the districts based on the purported number of low-income families living there, reports the Star-Ledger. An investigation by the newspaper reportedly sparked a subsequent state probe.

The Office of the State Comptroller has referred more than 100 employees and family members for criminal prosecution. Earlier, cases were pursued by state prosecutors against several board members in Elizabeth. Also charged by the state attorney general’s office were two lawyers accused of participating in a scheme to cover up a claimed fraudulent school-lunch-program application by a board member.

They are Kirk Nelson, 46, an attorney for the Elizabeth board of education, and Frank Capece, 62, who serves as the board’s outside counsel, according to another Star-Ledger article published in April.

Both were charged with falsifying or tampering with records and hindering apprehension.

“I don’t know which is more disturbing, a school board member and his wife allegedly stealing from a school lunch program for disadvantaged students, or two attorneys allegedly tampering with the records of the public body that they serve to thwart a criminal investigation,” said Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa at the time. “Corruption is never to be taken lightly—not at any level—and we intend to make perfectly plain that the defendants’ alleged conduct is nothing short of criminal.”

NJToday.com also had a story and a statement provided to NJToday.com by the school board president noted out that none of the Elizabeth defendants have been convicted of any wrongdoing.

The articles don’t include any comment from the lawyers or their counsel.

See also:

Star-Ledger (opinion): “Elizabeth school board is back on the ropes”

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