North Jersey – There are coin collectors, and then there’s Thomas Rica. While the true hobbyist seeks quality coinage, Rica was more interested in quantity — amassing 1.8 million individual quarters. Unfortunately, he acquired them illegally. Rica — once employed as Ridgewood’s public works inspector — quite literally pocketed himself a small fortune over 25 months before his arrest last year. All told, the 43-year-old Hawthorne resident admitted on Wednesday that he had stolen at least $460,600 from Ridgewood’s coin-collection room. Collectively, his take weighed 11.25 tons, according to the U.S. Mint. That’s the equivalent of three elephants, a single 84-passenger bus or nine Honda Civics. But Rica didn’t deposit it all at once; he cashed in the loose change over time at several bank branches using coin machines to avoid detection, authorities said. He will not serve a day in prison under the terms of a deal accepted by Judge John Conte in Superior Court in Hackensack. Instead, he must pay it all back. Each count, Conte noted, is normally punishable by a maximum of five years in prison. Rica’s lawyer, Robert Galantucci, said that the former village employee couldn’t resist the temptation the coin-storage room presented and that his client “acknowledged it was wrong and is trying to make it right” by paying restitution. Officials on Wednesday said that the coins were taken slowly, steadily, and by the fistful from a room in Village Hall, where quarters from Ridgewood’s parking meters are stored. Rica did not have authorization to enter the meter-collection room but used a master key he was given “due to the nature of his position” to gain repeated access to it, village officials confirmed on Wednesday. Ridgewood collected $800,000 in quarters from meters in 2013, village officials said.
There is absolutely no better feeling than cashing in your loose change at the Penny Arcade. Its practically like hitting the lottery. You got your jar of loose change that’s been building up for like 6 months. Filled with quarters, dimes, and nickels. No pennies. I throw pennies right on the street. Pennies are for Poors. Maybe if you’re lucky there’s a Susan B Anthony or a JFK Half Dollar up in that bitch. Somehow a couple Buffalo Nickels and Canadian coins made it in there. Few paper clips and shit that you gotta weed out. But you’ve got like 4 pounds of change and you’re fucking psyched to to pour it down the hatch in that big machine at TD Bank. That bitch “Penny” is talking to you getting you all excited. Getting you nice and hard for a pay day. You’re trying to count the quarters more than the other coins because quarters are obviously the big bucks. You’re expecting about 45 bucks and after the machine settles all your change you see you’ve really got $65.87. And on the inside it feels like you just hit the fucking jackpot. 20 dollars and 87 cents higher than you thought it would be and you might as well have just hit triple 7 on the slots in Vegas.
Now imagine doing that but instead its 1.8 million quarters. $800,000. In terms of cashing in coins 800 grand is like 2 billion dollars. Incredible. Sure, its gonna be a bitch to repay 11.25 tons of loose change, but for the past 25 months Tommy Rica was probably the most satisfied man in America. Every day just getting that Penny Arcade adrenaline. Doesn’t even matter that he didn’t get to spend it. Its just all about converting those dirty coins into cold, hard, cash.