AG Platkin: Two Defendants Indicted for Issuing Bogus Paterson City Building Permits

Paterson
Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced a state grand jury has voted to indict a Paterson housing and zoning inspector as well as an accomplice, charging them for their alleged roles in a conspiracy to accept money in exchange for illegitimate building permits bearing forged signatures, purported to be issued by the City of Paterson.

The grand jury returned a seven-count indictment on February 20, 2024, against Jose Fermin, 50, of Prospect Park, New Jersey, and Jose Juan Guererro-Cruz, 44, of Cape Coral, Florida. Guererro-Cruz was taken into custody in Fort Myers, Florida, on February 27 by officers from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

The indictment was handed up after Fermin and Guerrero, over a period of at least two years, allegedly produced fraudulent Paterson building permits and other records in exchange for payments.

The indictment, which follows an investigation by the Corruption Bureau of the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA), alleges that the bogus documents included imitation signatures purportedly written by Paterson’s Planning and Zoning Director.

According to the investigation, the conspiracy unfolded between roughly December 2020 and February 2022. The investigation found that Guerrero and Fermin would accept money in exchange for Fermin producing the forged, and in fact illegitimate, documents. It is alleged that some applicants were told they could receive sham permits without even submitting building plans.

Fermin’s actions, as alleged, violated Paterson Personnel Policies and Procedures requiring employees to refrain from, among other things, accepting gifts from any individual who has had or is likely to have any professional or official transactions with the City.

“We will aggressively prosecute public officials who offer favors in exchange for bribes,” said Attorney General Platkin. “Corruption makes the public lose faith that government runs in an upstanding, fair manner and in accordance with the rule of law — and it will not be tolerated by any public servant at any level.”

“We allege these defendants abused a position of authority, power, and public trust to enrich themselves personally, all while misleading their victims,” said Thomas Eicher, Executive Director of OPIA. “They were allegedly undermining the city’s regulatory oversight by offering a workaround that was fictional, and was perpetuated through the use of phony permits.”

Fermin and Guererro-Cruz were indicted on the following charges:

• Conspiracy (2nd degree)

• Official misconduct (2nd degree)

• Bribery in official or political matters (2nd degree)

• Acceptance or receipt of unlawful benefit by public servant for official behavior (2nd degree)

• Tampering with public records or information (3rd degree)

• Falsifying or tampering with records (4th degree); and

• Forgery (3rd degree)

These charges are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000.

Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.

Fourth-degree offenses could lead to up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.

Deputy Attorneys General Lisa Queen and Rbrey D. Singleton are prosecuting the case, under the supervision of Corruption Bureau Deputy Chief Jeffrey Manis, OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione, and OPIA Director Eicher.

Defense counsel

For Fermin: William E. Wackowski, Esq.. Freehold, New Jersey

For Guererro-Cruz: none listed at this time

 

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