Mark Holmes, 56, a former mayor of Lawrence Township, has been sentenced to five years in prison for stealing more than $90,000 from the Asbury Park Housing Authority, Monmouth County Prosecutor Christopher Gramiccioni announced.
Holmes worked as the authority’s executive director from 2008-11.
In January, Holmes pleaded guilty to theft by unlawful taking. He returned to court on April 20 for sentencing by state Superior Court Judge Ellen Torregrossa-O’Connor, sitting in Freehold.
In addition to his prison sentence, Holmes was ordered to pay $35,000 in restitution to the housing authority for money he had not reimbursed, he lost his government pension and he will not be permitted to work in public employment in New Jersey following his release from prison.
Holmes served on Lawrence Township Council from 1998 to 2008. He served as mayor in 2004 and 2008. His term on the council would have expired in December 2009, but he resigned at the end of 2008 due to personal and professional commitments.
The Asbury Park Housing Authority Board of Directors asked the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office to investigate its finances after a review of its 2009-10 audit revealed suspected financial irregularities. The irregularities were called to the board’s attention by its auditor, authorities said.
Several months before Holmes became the authority’s executive director, when he was serving as the deputy executive director, he received a $99,897 grant from the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The money was to be used to provide training in computers and other marketable skills for Asbury Park’s public housing residents.
Subsequently, while Holmes was serving as executive director, the housing authority received more than $75,000 from the state as part of the $99,897 training grant.
Holmes transferred more than $58,000 to the Asbury Park Housing Authority Community Development Corp., which he created, but instead of using the money for training purposes, Holmes used the money to fund a $50,000 salary increase for himself without the approval of the Board of Directors, authorities said.
Holmes also opened credit card accounts in the name of the housing authority and the Asbury Park Housing Authority Community Development Corp. He used the credit card for personal expenses and changed the mailing address for the bills so they would be sent to his home in Lawrence Township. Authorities said he ran up more than $30,000 in debt.
During his tenure as the housing authority’s executive director, Holmes took more than 30 business trips across the country. According to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office, he received per diem payments up front from the housing authority before he left on those trips, totaling more than $22,000.
The $22,000 was intended to pay for meal expenses, but even though Holmes received the money before embarking on business trips, he received duplicate reimbursement from the housing authority for the meals upon his return.
Holmes used housing authority money for personal expenses while he was traveling, including spa treatments, hotel in-room movies and gentlemen’s clubs, the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office said. He used housing authority funds at least three times to pay for limousine service to take him and his family to and from an airport.
And, Holmes used more than $13,000 of the authority’s money for unauthorized meals in Asbury Park and Lawrence Township, according to the Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office.