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Public Employee Sentenced In Bribery Case

Freehold Soil Conservation District employee John Tonon sentenced to three years in prison

A Former Freehold Soil Conservation District employee from Wall was sentence to three years in prison today for accepting a bribe to expedite construction approvals, authorities said.

John Tonon, 51, of Lakewood Road, was sentenced to three years in prision today by Superior Court Judge Ronald Lee Reisner. Tonon will be eligible for parole after two years, according to a release from the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office.

Tonon in April pleaded guilty to official misconduct and bribery, both third degree crimes. The charges carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Authorities have said that Tonon accepted a $700 cash bribe from an undercover officer while serving in his job as a soil conservationist and inspector for the Freehold Soil Conservation District.

Tonon, who according to state records in 2009 made $65,226 in his position with the conservation district.

Tonon accepted the bribe on Oct. 26 in Hazlet to expedite the permitting process for a recently built home, the Prosecutor's Office has said.

Tonon told the builder the fees associated with the Freehold Soil Conservation District inspection and the associated paperwork ranged between $1,400 and $3,000, the Prosecutor's Office has said.

But Tonon offered to expedite the process and issue approvals in exchange
for a $700 cash payment – approvals that would ensure faster issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the property, the Prosecutor's Office has said.

Then an undercover officer, posing as a business partner of the builder, stepped in and made several consensually recorded conversations regarding payment and Tonon accepted a $700 cash bribe from the undercover officer, the Prosecutor's Office has said.

The Freehold Soil Conservation District is one of 15 soil conservation districts in the state, run by the New Jersey Department of Agriculture.

Conservation districts are charged with the implementation of the New Jersey Soil Erosion and Sediment Control Act, which regulates development in areas including stormwater management, soil erosion and sedimentation.

The Freehold Soil Conservation District works in both Monmouth and Middlesex counties.

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