FEAR-List Bulletin posted by John Paff, 4/26/96
Thomas Wagner, a Branchville, New Jersey accountant, pled guilty on April 8th to helping former Somerset County Prosecutor Nicholas L. Bissell, Jr. and his wife evade income taxes. The plea, entered before U.S. District Judge Alfred Lechner, Jr. caps Wagner's maximum prison term to five years. He may avoid jail altogether if he testifies against the Bissells at their trial.
Wagner, a former business partner of Bissell's, is the accountant Bissell hired in 1987 to audit Somerset County's forfeiture fund. He conducted the audits from 1987 to 1994. The county's forfeiture account, controlled by Bissell, took in over $5 million during this seven year period.
Wagner was removed as auditor in 1994 after the state attorney general's office ruled that Wagner didn't have the proper credentials to audit the fund. The April 15th New Jersey Law Journal (144 N.J.L.J. 246) credits F.E.A.R.'s New Jersey chapter with "launching a successful challenge against Wagner's credentials for the post."
And, evidence is mounting that the forfeiture money wasn't properly accounted for during the period of Wagner's audits. According to a sworn statement filed by IRS Agent Joseph LaRose last year, Wagner's records "contained material omissions in that they failed to properly report assets seized by the prosecutor's office." Nobody knows how much of the forfeiture money is missing or otherwise unaccounted for.