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New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal. (Photo by Nikita Biryukov)

DOT employee admits to helping friend with state contract

Former purchasing official faces three-year prison sentence

By David Wildstein, March 13 2019 12:22 pm

A former purchasing agent for the New Jersey Department of Transportation pleaded guilty today on charges that he awarded contracts to a vendor who had befriended him.

Ricardo Noce, who worked in the transportation department’s operations unit in Cherry Hill, admitted that he allowed the vendor to charge $93,059 more than a competitor would have charged.

Noce was charged with second-degree misapplication of entrusted property or property of government

Under a plea agreement, the state is recommending a three-year prison sentence for Noce when he is sentenced on May 24.

An investigation by the state Office of Public Integrity and Accountability revealed that on 30 occasions between 2013 and 2017, Noce awarded contracts to his friend in violation of a competitive bidding requirement for purchases over $1,000.

Noce split large orders for identical items into multiple contracts so that each was under the $1,000 threshold.    State regulations prohibit that practice.

“The vendor is not charged and has not been named on the record in court or in any documents filed in court, so we are not identifying him,” said Peter Aseltine, a spokesman for the attorney general.  “The vendor sold various supplies to the DOT, including gloves, tarps and snow- and ice-melting pellets.”

“The rules governing state contracting are designed to prevent this type of favoritism and waste,” said Attorney General Grubir Grewal.  “We are sending a clear message that we have zero tolerance for government employees who betray the public’s trust to serve their own interests and the interests of their friends.”

Noce, currently under suspension, must forfeit his job.

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