Ex-employees of Ocean Vetwork County veterans charity charged with theft

The former director of an Ocean County veterans charity and two former high-profile employees face theft charges after authorities alleged they collectively stole more than $30,000 from the group.

The trio, who worked for Vetwork, a Lacey-based nonprofit that helps ex-servicemen find jobs, stable housing, all took payments beyond their approved salaries over a four-month period between February and June 2019, according to a news release from the Ocean County District Attorney’s Office.

Jesse Violante, 33, of Tuckerton, the former director of Vetwork, Mary Anne Dileo, 67, of Stafford and the group’s former office manager and Gary Mclain, 33, of Little Egg Harbor, the former chief of Community Outreach, were all charged Thursday with robbery by unlawful taking, according to the news release.

“It is disturbing to say the least that employees of a non-profit organization designed to help our veterans here in Ocean County are stealing from this same organization. These defendants lined their pockets with money intended to help those who have sacrificed so much for our country. This type of conduct is truly disgraceful,” Ocean County District Attorney Bradley D. Billhimer said in a statement.

An investigation by the prosecutor’s office’s Economic Crimes Unit found that the defendants “took extra payments some weeks beyond their regular paychecks,” according to the news release.

In total, Violante received five additional payments totaling $5,855.20, Dileo received 26 duplicate payments totaling $19,588 and Mclain received five payments totaling $4,972, authorities said.

The prosecutor’s office began investigating after an audit commissioned by Vetwork’s board uncovered the duplicate payments. The payments were not authorized by the council, nor were they included in documents submitted to the Ocean County government seeking funding, authorities said.

The charity was partially funded by a grant from the county government, according to the press release.

Violante and Dileo surrendered to law enforcement and were released pending a future court appearance. Mclain did not turn himself in, and authorities issued a warrant for his arrest.

Authorities are asking anyone with information about Mclain’s whereabouts to contact the office of the prosecutor, Detective Lindsey Llauget at 732-929-2027 ext. 3462.

Andrew Goudsward: agoudsward@gannett.com; @agoudsward on Twitter.

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