The former executive director of a former Head Start program in Jersey City Tuesday admitted that he diverted more than $250,000 from programs for underprivileged children and used the money for personal expenses, including a Maserati and a mink coat, prosecutors said.
Robert E. Mays, 38, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton in federal court to one count of wire fraud.
According to court papers charging him, Mays in 2013 forged records and duped employees at the Jersey City Child Development Centers into believing that its board of directors had raised his salary 61 percent to $155,000 after acting as executive director for only two months.
Mays was fired in May of 2014, after the board learned of the salary boost, court records say.
Mays also admitted that he withdrew cash from the agency’s account in part to pay for the 2007 Maserati, which would have cost more than $100,000 on the market at the time.
In addition, Mays billed the agency for repairs to the Maserati, taking steps to cover up the billing by making it appear as if the work was done on a Toyota Sienna owed by the centers.
By admitting guilt, Mays will be required to forfeit $257,418 in cash, title to the 2007 gray four-door Maserati Quattroporte and ownership of a "Bleached Whiskey Stroller Skin-On-Skin (Fendi Style) mink fur coat," court papers say.
The wire fraud count to which Mays pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of twice the agency’s loss and full restitution. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 20.
U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman credited special agents with the FBI and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office, with the investigation.
Tim Darragh may be reached at tdarragh. Follow him on Twitter @timdarragh.