Peter Burnham, who resigned as president of Brookdale Community College last year amid questions over his lavish pay and perks, pleaded guilty Tuesday to defrauding the school out of $40,000, the Monmouth County Prosecutor announced.
Burnham, of Colts Neck, also admitted bilking the federal government and Monmouth University out of $20,000 in student aid after he quit in discgrace, according to Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Grammiccioni.
Here’s the full text of the prosecutor’s announcement:
FORMER BROOKDALE COMMUNITY COLLEGE PRESIDENT PLEADS GUILTY TO OFFICIAL MISCONDUCT AND THEFT
Former Brookdale Community College President Peter F. Burnham pleaded guilty today to official misconduct and theft for fraudulently obtaining more than $40,000 of meals, alcoholic beverages, hotel stays, clothing, tuition assistance, electronic equipment and other items of value, Acting Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni announced.
Burnham, 68, of Colts Neck, entered his plea before Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Thomas F. Scully, P.J.Cr., who scheduled Burnham’s sentencing on September 21.
An investigation conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office revealed that, from June 2003 through February 2011, Burnham had engaged in a continuous scheme to defraud Brookdale Community College (“BCC”) by falsely representing that certain expenses charged on two college-issued credit cards were related to official business, when in fact they were not. In many instances, Burnham falsely claimed that expenses charged related to his position as BCC President, or his participation with certain education committees and associations, when no such business was conducted or existed at the time Burnham had claimed. Once the monthly statements for school-issued credit cards were received, Burnham would present the statements to BCC executive staff after making false notations and representations on the statements to justify the expenses, which caused BCC to pay the expenses under the false impression that they related to Burnham’s official duties and responsibilities as BCC President. On other occasions, Burnham failed to provide any supporting receipts, or provided non-itemized receipts even though BCC policies and procedures required such supporting documentation, to falsely justify payment for the expenses.
Many of the fraudulent expenses paid for by BCC constituted payments for lodging, airfare and meals and restaurants at choice locations in places such as Philadelphia, South Jersey, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Arizona and Delaware. In some instances, Burnham intentionally provided non-itemized receipts to conceal his purchase of alcoholic beverages and other items that could not be submitted for payment by BCC because of BCC regulations that prohibited the expensing of alcohol.
The investigation also revealed that Burnham bilked Monmouth University and the federal government of approximately $20,000 in student aid. Burnham’s employment contract with BCC provided for a number of benefits, including $20,000 of tuition reimbursement per school year for any family member to attend any state college or university. Burnham, whose son attended Monmouth University, had already been reimbursed for his son’s 2010/2011 school year tuition as per the terms of Burnham’s employment contract. However, on March 11, 2011 (three days after submitting his resignation to BCC), Burnham and his son submitted an application for federal student aid for the same 2010/2011 school year without disclosing the $20,000 tuition reimbursement benefit provide by BCC. On March 15, 2011, Burnham was notified that his son qualified for federal student aid for the 2010/2011 school year, and the federal government paid the 2010/2011 tuition to Monmouth University directly. Monmouth University, after noting the overpayment for tuition, later issued a $20,398 reimbursement check to Burnham’s son, which was ultimately deposited into Burnham’s personal bank account. Thereafter, Burnham used the converted funds for his personal financial benefit and never re-paid BCC or the federal government.
Burnham pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree official misconduct and one count of third-degree theft by deception pursuant to a negotiated plea agreement. Under the terms of the plea agreement, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office will recommend that Burnham receive a five-year State prison term with a statutorily
mandated two-year period of parole ineligibility.
Acting Prosecutor Gramiccioni thanked Brookdale Community College and the County of Monmouth for their participation and assistance in this case.
This case was assigned to Acting Prosecutor Christopher J. Gramiccioni and Assistant Prosecutor John Loughrey. Burnham was represented by Steven Secare, Esq., of Toms River.