FREEHOLD – Mark W. Holmes, Sr., the former Executive Director of the Asbury Park Housing Authority, pleaded guilty to stealing more than $90,000 from that organization between 2008 and 2011, announced Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni.
Holmes, 56, a resident of Lawrence Township and former mayor and councilman of that Mercer County town, pleaded guilty to second degree Theft by Unlawful Taking Tuesday before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge John R. Tassini. He faces five years in New Jersey state prison when he returns for sentencing on April 6, 2018. As part of his plea agreement, Holmes agreed to pay $35,000 in restitution for monies he has not reimbursed the Asbury Park Housing Authority (APHA) and to forfeit his government-funded pension as well as any future public employment in New Jersey.
“Everyone, including public officials, must be held accountable when they break the law. Public service is a privilege and requires a level of trust by our constituents – a trust that Mr. Holmes exploited,” Gramiccioni said.
An investigation conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office revealed that, during his period of employment with the Housing Authority, Holmes stole in more than $90,000 by diverting state grant funds, collecting reimbursements for unauthorized meals, and double-dipping on per diem payments when traveling.
Holmes, a former Lawrence Township mayor and town councilman, was Executive Director of the Asbury Park Housing Authority (APHA) between December 2008 and June 2011. Prior to assuming that position, Holmes was Deputy Director of the city-run organization. Just months before assuming the role as Executive Director, Holmes applied for and received a $99,897 grant award from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. This Literacy Skills Training Grant was intended to provide training in computers and other marketable skills for Asbury Park public housing residents.
Between November 2008 and August 2009, with Holmes serving as executive director, the APHA received over $75,000 from the State as part of the Training Grant. Holmes transferred over $58,000 of the funds to the APHA Community Development Corporation, an organization he created, and, rather than use the money for training purposes, Holmes used the money to fund a $50,000 salary increase for himself without APHA Board approval.
Additionally, Holmes opened up credit cards in the name of the “APHA” and “APHA Community Development Corporation” and used the cards for personal expenses. He changed the mailing addresses for the bills to go directly to his personal residence and racked up over $30,000 in debt.
While serving as Executive Director for a two and a half year period, Holmes went on more than 30 business trips across the country. Prior to these trips, Holmes received over $22,000 in per diem payments from the APHA which were intended to cover meal expenses while away on business. Upon his return, even though he had already received these monies, Holmes sought and received duplicate reimbursements from the APHA for meals for which he had already received the up-front per diem payments. Holmes also used APHA funds for personal expenditures while on these trips, including spa treatments, hotel in-room movies, and gentlemen’s clubs. On at least three occasions, he used APHA funds to pay for stretch limousine service to transport him and his family to and from the airport.
Holmes also used over $13,000 of APHA funds for unauthorized meal expenses in the Asbury Park and Lawrenceville areas.
In November 2012, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, under the leadership of Prosecutor Gramiccioni, launched a Corruption Tip Line designed to solicit the public’s assistance in identifying and targeting corruption, fraud and misconduct occurring in local governmental agencies.
Citizens may report concerns via the following: Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office Corruption Tip Line – 855-7-UNJUST (855 786-5878); or E-mail at: email@example.com write “Corruption/Misconduct Tip” in the subject line.
Monmouth County Crime Stoppers will pay up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of criminals and fugitives. Citizens with information about a crime or fugitive may contact Monmouth County Crime Stoppers by calling 1-800-671-4400, which is a confidential telephone tip-line; they can text “MONMOUTH” plus their tip to 274637; or, they can email a tip via the website at www.monmouthcountycrimestoppers.com
The case was prosecuted by Monmouth County Assistant Prosecutor Lawrence Nelsen, of the Office’s Financial Crimes and Public Corruption Bureau.
Holmes is represented by Mark G. Davis, Esq., of Trenton.
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