3 plead no contest in fuel card thefts

Three Independence employees pleaded no contest Monday to multiple charges of unauthorized use of an access card after allegedly using town fuel cards to fill up their personal vehicles, the District Attorney’s Office said.

Independence police arrested the four employees, John Henson, 49; Charles Garafola, 55; Jeffers Cook, 55; and Reginald Jefferson, 54, in April after receiving a tip about the alleged abuse, which cost about $1,000, Police Chief Frank Edwards III has said.

The Town Council ended the employees’ usage of the fuel cards in January and the employees later surrendered to police, Edwards has said.

According a news release from the District Attorney’s Office, Henson, of Roseland, pleaded no contest to two counts of unauthorized use of an access card and one count of theft under $500. Cook, of Independence, pleaded no contest to three counts of unauthorized use of an access card. Garafola, of Hammond, pleaded no contest to two counts of unauthorized use of an access card.

All three were given six-month suspended jail terms and two years of probation, along with orders to pay restitution.

Jefferson, 54, of Independence, is scheduled for a September bench trial for nine counts of unauthorized use of an access card in the case.

Judge Doug Hughes sentenced Henson, Cook and Garafola.

Henson, Cook and Garafola are scheduled to re-appear in court Oct. 30 for monitoring.