PERTH AMBOY – Police Chief Ben Ruiz has been charged with theft and suspended without pay for using a police department mechanic to fix vehicles belonging to himself and a friend, according to Middlesex Prosecutor Andrew Carey.
Ruiz, 53, of Perth Amboy, was charged with one count of theft of services for authorizing the repairs on various occasions between Dec. 8, 2013, and July 29, 2014, the prosecutor said.
The chief has been a police officer since May 1988 and has served as the department’s top cop since September 10, 2012. He earns more than $161,000 a year and received a $2,700 raise earlier this year, according to a published report.
Ruiz surrendered at the Middlesex County Sheriff’s Department in New Brunswick. He was charged with theft and released on his own recognizance, the prosecutor said.
“The chief had the city mechanic make repairs to two of the chief’s personal vehicles, as well as having repairs performed on a vehicle privately owned by a personal acquaintance of the chief,” Carey stated in a press release Tuesday afternoon.
After being charged, the chief was suspended without pay.
Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz has appointed city police Capt. Larry Cattano acting deputy chief of police.
Diaz on Tuesday issued this statement:
“I have been informed by the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office that it has charged the Chief of Police with allegations announced in a statement by Prosecutor Andrew Carey. Throughout my six years as Mayor of Perth Amboy, I have prided myself on running an open and ethical administration. I have taken immediate action to ensure the best interest of the residents of our community. Although we live in a society where each one of us is innocent until proven guilty, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s charges are serious enough that I am immediately moving to suspend Chief Ruiz without pay until the final resolution of the charges against him. Effective immediately, I have appointed Capt. Larry Cattano, as Acting Deputy Chief of Police. He has been placed in command of all Police Department operations until further notice.”
Perth Amboy police Officer Brandon Bucior, who identified himself to NJ Advance Media as president of PBA Local 13, issued this statement Tuesday afternoon:
“While we refuse to comment on the criminal charges and refuse to get involved in any political aspects, we, PBA Local 13, look forward to working with acting Deputy Chief Lawrence Cattano in looking for ways to make our department grow and change for the better while we continue to serve the citizens of Perth Amboy with pride and dignity.”
The investigation is continuing. Anyone with information is asked to call Sgt. Daniewicz of the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office at (732) 745-4018.