RIDGEWOOD - A town employee has admitted to stealing quite a chunk of change.
Thomas Rica pleaded guilty to stealing $460,000 in quarters while working for the village of Ridgewood. It was part of a deal in Bergen County Court.
Rica was a building inspector that had access to the room at Village Hall where the town kept coins collected from parking meters over an extended period of time. "We're dealing with the theft of quarters over a period of a couple of years," said the prosecutor. "It's difficult to calculate exactly how many quarters were stolen when you're dealing with millions of quarters over a few years."
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Rica admitted to stealing thousands of dollars in coins on at least four different occasions.
"It was just temptation," said Bob Galantucci, Rica's attorney. "He was in a room with a lot of money. He was raising a family. As a result, he thought he would supplement his income with that."
The stolen coins amounted to nearly 2 million quarters, which would weigh about 11.5 tons, about the same as six and a half full size cars.
"It's terrible," says Barbara Mendelson, of Ridgewood. "Here we are giving our money to the city and here's somebody taking the money away from the city. It makes no sense to me."
Under the plea deal, Rica will get five years of probation and will have to pay back $69,000 upfront and $2,000 a month after that.