TRENTON, N.J. – A former manager of the New Jersey Traumatic Brain Injury Fund and two others were arrested Thursday for allegedly stealing millions from the fund for personal interests. Assemblywoman Holly Schepisi, a survivor of a brain aneurysm, responded to the news of the charges and investigation.
“I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I survived a brain aneurysm and brain surgery with no lasting side effects. Many more have suffered traumatic brain injuries with less favorable outcomes and that is who should be benefitting from the state’s Traumatic Brain Injury Fund,” said Schepisi (R-Bergen). “To steal from a fund intended to help maximize people’s quality of life following a traumatic brain injury is deplorable. Families rely on this publicly-funded program to help them secure therapies, assistive technologies, home modifications and more to improve their daily lives. This scheme allegedly lasted for 10 years – a decade of fraud that stole life-changing support from vulnerable residents.”
According to Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig, former fund manager Harry Pizutelli, and two others, C.R. Kraus and Maritza Flores, both of Toms River, are charged with conspiring to defraud the program of more than $4.5 million. Pizutelli orchestrated the distribution of fraudulent vendor payments to Kraus, Flores, and others by generating and processing false invoices and internal payment vouchers for services to patients that were never rendered.
“We cannot let this incident define the fund’s future or distract us from its purpose. There is a lot of important work yet to be accomplished. It’s critical that the fund is successfully and responsibly managed going forward so that the help is there when people need it the most,” said Schepisi, who is also actively involved with the Brain Injury Alliance of New Jersey, a private nonprofit organization.
The fund is distributed by the Division of Disability Services in the Department of Human Services. In addition to helping those who experienced a brain injury, a portion of the fund also goes to public education, outreach, and prevention activities. The fund is supported by a 50-cent fee on motor vehicle registrations, which generates about $3.7 million annually.