Wildwood, N.J. mayor sentenced in federal tax fraud case

Mayor Pete Byron, 67, learned his fate before a federal judge in Camden on Wednesday.

Pete Byron

Wildwood Mayor Peter Byron. (6abc)

This story originally appeared on 6abc.

Wildwood Mayor Pete Byron was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $20,000 fine after he admitted earlier this year to aiding and assisting in the preparation of false tax returns.

Byron, 67, learned his fate before a federal judge in Camden on Wednesday.

From January 2017 through December 2018, Byron served as a commissioner for Wildwood and was in charge of the revenue and finance departments.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

In 2017, authorities say Byron worked for a law firm as a salesman while serving as commissioner for Wildwood.

According to a letter sent by the firm to Byron, the Wildwood official was to receive an annual salary from the company for his work.

Authorities say Byron received $40,425 in payments, but he never reported the earnings to the IRS for calendar years 2017 and 2018.

Back in March, Byron pleaded guilty to two counts of willfully aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of fraudulent tax returns.

After his sentencing on Wednesday, Byron told Action News he has no plans to resign as mayor, a position he’s served since 2020.

But his legal troubles are not over.

On Wednesday, Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced that a state grand jury again indicted Byron, former Mayor Ernie Troiano Jr., and current City Commissioner Steve Mikulski, reinstating charges of official misconduct, theft by unlawful taking, tampering with public records and falsifying or tampering with records.

Authorities allege the trio fraudulently participated in the State Health Benefits Program.

Since 2010, state law requires elected officials to be full-time employees “whose hours of work are fixed at 35 or more per week” in their elected positions to be eligible to participate in the SHBP and receive employer-provided healthcare.

Authorities say Byron, Troiano, and Mikulski fraudulently enrolled in the SHBP and received publicly funded health benefits when they were not eligible.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Troiano and Byron were elected to Wildwood’s three-member City Commission in 2011, and Troiano was sworn in as mayor. Both men voted in 2011 to pass a resolution that declared themselves full-time employees working “a minimum of 35 hours per week” for Wildwood. They subsequently enrolled in the SHBP.

Authorities say both Troiano and Byron did not work at least 35 hours a week and allegedly falsely signed and submitted timesheets to the city indicating they worked full days Monday through Friday.

As a result, Wildwood and the SHBP paid over $286,500 in premiums and claims on behalf of Troiano from July 2011 through December 2019, and paid over $608,900 in premiums and claims on behalf of Byron from July 2011 through October 2021, the AG’s office said.

Mikulski, who became a member of Wildwood’s Commission in 2020 and enrolled in the SHBP, has since received publicly funded health benefits. Wildwood and the SHBP have paid over $103,000 in premiums and claims on his behalf through October 2021, according to investigators.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal