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N.J. carpenters pension fund boss pleads guilty to stealing $140K

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The former administrator of the Northeast Carpenters Pension Fund pleaded guilty Friday to stealing $140,000 in unauthorized benefits and filing false statements with the U.S. Department of Labor.

George R. Laufenberg, 72, of Wall Township, admitted embezzling the pension funds in an appearance before U.S. District Judge Kevin R. McNulty in Newark, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. Laufenberg diverted the funds as part of a deferred compensation package he was not entitled to, the government said.

Laufenberg, who was paid $300,000 a year to manage the carpenters union pension fund, was initially charged with embezzling over $1.5 million in a five-count indictment handed down in 2019. As part of a plea deal, three charges were dismissed and he pleaded guilty to two counts, each of which carry a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on Oct. 6.

The Northeast Carpenters Pension Fund manages health and retirement benefits for over 30,000 mill-cabs, homebuilders, tapers and floor layers in New York and New Jersey who are members of the United Brotherhood Carpenters. Laufenberg was responsible for the clean administration of the pension fund on behalf of the union members, but the feds alleged in the indictment that he worked with another unnamed co-conspirator to divert funds to himself.

Laufenberg is a former commissioner with the Port Authority of NY & NJ who was appointed by Governor Chris Christie in 2014. At the time, the appointment was seen as a way for Christie to make peace with the carpenters union, which declined to endorse the governor’s 2013 reelection bid.

The carpenters were angry that Christie had vetoed a bill sponsored by then-Senate President Steve Sweeney that encouraged the use of union labor in the rebuilding effort following Superstorm Sandy.

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Richard Cowen may be reached at rcowen@njadvancemedia.com.