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Finance Manager Nabbed In Alleged Theft

A 15-year employee of nonprofit Middle Earth in Bridgewater Township, N.J., was charged with stealing more than $75,000 from the organization while working as its finance manager.

Jolee Roberts, 55, of Bridgewater Township, was arrested recently without incident at her home and charged with theft by deception, two counts of forgery and one count of credit card theft.  

The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office has not responded to a request for more details and the exact amount of the alleged theft that occurred over a two-year period has not been disclosed. The second-degree theft by deception charge — punishable upon conviction by up to 10 years in prison — is the most serious theft charge in New Jersey and covers alleged pilfered sums that exceed $75,000.

The Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office did not identify Roberts’ place of employment, but her LinkedIn profile states she worked for Middle Earth for 15 years as its finance manager, responsible for all financial aspects of the organization, yearly budgeting, and financial reporting to the board of directors.

Middle Earth Executive Director Maria Strada has not responded to a request for comment. Founded in 1972, the organization provides prevention, intervention and crisis services to adolescents and operates other programs, including an afterschool program.

Records show Roberts was detained overnight at the Somerset County jail after her arrest before being released on her own recognizance. She is due in Superior Court in Somerville, N.J., on Aug. 29 for a pre-indictment conference. Her attorney, Brandon D. Minde, did not respond to a call for comment.

The alleged theft was discovered after Roberts was terminated from her job. The case was referred to the Prosecutor’s Office Special Investigations Unit. Roberts is accused of cashing numerous checks and using credit cards issued to the nonprofit organization for personal expenses and purchases, according to a Prosecutor’s Office release.  

Middle Earth staff is engaged in teaching youth leadership skills, directing them to SAT training, mentoring and advising student ambassadors who maintain a mental health website and assist at a food pantry. In 2021, according to the organization’s annual impact report, staff worked with 159 youths who completed 1,187 hours of community service after being involved in minor juvenile incidences.

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