New Jersey Boss Accused of Embezzling $2 Million

Carmelo J. Sita, ex-fund manager for the Hudson County (N.J.) Dist. Council of Laborers, was arrested the morning of Dec. 12 at his home in Mountainside, N.J., and accused of embezzling more than $2 million from HCDCL and its benefit funds. He used the money for a lavish  lifestyle, including a Martha’s Vineyard vacation home and luxury cars, according to the 59-count indictment handed up Dec. 10. U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan D. Wigenton set bail at $250,000, which was reportedly secured by a coop apartment that Sita owns on Manhattan’s Upper West Side.

From Jan. 1995 to Mar. 1999, Sita allegedly conspired with others who concealed the embezzlement, and he wrote checks from benefit fund and HCDCL  accounts to himself or to pay his personal expenses. Allegedly, Sita stole money to pay for “monthly credit card debts, mortgage payments, lease payments on luxury vehicles, personal taxes, Martha’s Vineyard vacation home and boat, and unauthorized political and charitable contributions.” Further, he allegedly used union money to pay country club dues. Specifically, the indictment charges him with conspiracy, theft from employee benefit and health care plans, health care fraud, and falsifying disbursement documents about HCDCL.

In addition to prison time, prosecutors are seeking criminal forfeiture of Sita’s Mountainside home, his condo in Tisbury, Mass. (Martha’s Vineyard), a Wellcraft 20-foot motor boat, and $1,062,787 million in cash. They charge that the property and money came from the embezzled funds.

Sita resigned in 1999 after 22 years as executive manager of HCDCL’s benefit funds. The Jersey City based council consists of Laborers’ Int’l Union of N. Am. Locals 21, 31, 202, and 325. He is now a self-employed consultant on commercial real estate deals. Sita’s attorney, David A. Ruhnke, said his client denies any wrongdoing: “this indictment represents a gross misunderstanding of how matters of compensation were handled in this union.” Ruhnke admitted that last year, the Dep’t of Labor sued Sita and other bosses, accountants, and attorneys linked the funds over the alleged embezzlement. The parties reached a confidential settlement, he said. [Record (Bergen County, N.J.) 12/13/01; Bloomberg News 12/12/01]

According to Fed. Election Comm’n records, Sita’s federal political contributions from 1995-99 were: $2,000 to the N.J. Republican State Comm., $1,000 to Sen. Robert G. Torricelli (D-N.J.), Rep. Michael Ferguson (R-N.J.), Senate Candidate & ex-Rep. Dick Zimmer (R-N.J.), House candidate John O. Bennett, III (R-N.J.), and $800 to the Republican Nat’l Comm.