Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that on October 19, 2021, Matthew Bender, 33, of Lacey Township, pled guilty to Theft in violation of N.J.S.A. 2C:20-3, before the Honorable Linda G. Baxter, J.S.C. At the time of sentencing on December 7, 2021, the State will seek a term of probation, together with full restitution, forfeiture of his lifetime membership with the Lanoka Harbor Emergency Medical Service (LHEMS), resignation from his position with the Lacey Township Police Department, and forfeiture of any current or future public office or employment in the State of New Jersey.
This charge was the result of an investigation conducted by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economics Crime Squad in the Spring of 2021. The investigation revealed that Bender, a volunteer with the LHEMS as well as a dispatcher with the Lacey Township Police Department, was responsible for maintaining the LHEMS website. Bender also had access to the LHEMS PayPal account. Between April 2020 and March 2021, the LHEMS received multiple donations from private citizens, and was also awarded monies from various grant applications. Further investigation revealed that the grant money was disbursed to the LHEMS PayPal account managed by Bender, and that approximately $4700 was transferred from the LHEMS PayPal account to Bender’s personal PayPal account. The investigation exposed numerous purchases by Bender – in small denominations – for various restaurants, pharmacies, and auto stores, confirming that the funds were not used for the benefit of the LHEMS. It was determined that Bender misappropriated these monies for personal use.
Prosecutor Billhimer acknowledges the diligent efforts of Senior Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Heisler and Assistant Prosecutor Taylor Toscano who handled the case on behalf of the State, as well as the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Economic Crime Squad, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, Lacey Township Police Department, and Berkeley Township Police Department, for their collaborative efforts in connection with this investigation resulting in Bender’s guilty plea.