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HILLSBOROUGH: Former athletic director arrested, charged with theft

Mike Fanizzi (Courtesy photo)

A three-month investigation into the financial records of the Hillsborough High School Athletic Department led to the arrest of its former director, Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office officials announced earlier this week.

Michael Fanizzi, 53, was taken into custody without incident at his Conover Way home Friday and charged with third-degree theft by unlawful taking for allegedly pocketing more than $10,000 in cash from four years of sporting event ticket sales. He was released pending a court appearance.

Officials said the investigation began last December when both the Hillsborough Township Police Department and an anonymous individual notified the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office Special Investigations Unit that a possible theft of funds had taken place within the high school’s athletic department.

At the time, Powell said the investigation was initiated at the request of Superintendent Dr. Jorden Schiff’s office.

The prosecutor’s office alleges that Fanizzi received checks from the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA) as reimbursement for services rendered during high school athletic events between 2013 and 2017. During that time, it was expected that the checks would be deposited into the board of education’s account.

What the investigation revealed, according to detectives, is that Fanizzi deposited the NJSIAA checks into the athletic department’s bank account instead of the cash ticket sales. He would then keep some of the collected proceeds.

As a result, detectives said there was $10,700 of cash missing from the athletic department.

Fanizzi was hired to replace Rocky Forte, who retired after 26 years at HHS, back in 2003. Prior to joining as the high school’s athletic director, he was the athletic director at Belvidere High School.

Rumblings of Fanizzi’s alleged involvement in the missing funds dates back to last November, when he was quietly placed on administrative leave by the Hillsborough Township Board of Education.

Just over a month later, officials approved a temporary measure to appoint Michael Davis, the district’s supervisor of health and physical education, to serve as the high school’s athletic director in Fanizzi’s stead.

Officials at the school district could not be reached for comment.

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