|Paterson Mayor Joey Torres and 3 Public Works Supervisors Charged With Official Misconduct for Allegedly Using On-Duty City Workers to Perform Renovations at Warehouse Leased by Relatives of Mayor|
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|TRENTON – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino today announced that a state grand jury has indicted Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres and three supervisors in the Paterson Department of Public Works (“DPW”) for allegedly conspiring to have city employees perform work at a private warehouse leased by the mayor’s daughter and nephew while the employees were being paid by the city.The Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau obtained a six-count indictment yesterday, March 6, which was unsealed today, charging the following defendants with conspiracy (2nd degree), official misconduct (2nd degree), pattern of official misconduct (2nd degree), theft by unlawful taking or disposition (3rd degree), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), and falsifying or tampering with records (4th degree):
The mayor and the three supervisors were indicted in an ongoing investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau into alleged abuses involving the Paterson DPW and improper use of city employees and overtime pay. The defendants are being processed on the charges at the Totowa State Police Station.
The indictment alleges that, at Mayor Torres’ behest and under his supervision, Mania, Mowaswes and Hanlon performed work and/or assigned subordinate employees to perform work at a private warehouse leased by “Quality Beer,” a limited liability company formed by Torres’ daughter and his nephew. The work, including renovation, painting, carpentry, and electrical work, was allegedly performed while the three supervisors and other DPW employees were working for and being paid by the City of Paterson.
“This is a case of old-school public corruption and abuse of power,” said Attorney General Porrino “Mayor Torres is alleged to have misappropriated public resources and workers to advance a family business, and his co-defendants allegedly joined in his blatantly crooked scheme. We have zero tolerance for this type of abuse of public office in New Jersey.”
“Mayor Torres played the generous father and uncle, but he left the bill for his largess with city taxpayers, who paid for the overtime shifts that city employees worked at this private warehouse,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We allege that these defendants corruptly exploited public workers and funds for their own benefit.”
“Jose Torres generously helped his family finance their endeavor to start a local business, but chose to leave the bill with the taxpayers who trusted him to run the city,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “I commend the great work of the troopers of the State Police Official Corruption Bureau and our partners for exposing this alleged betrayal of public office.”
On multiple dates between July 2014 and April 2015, Mania, Mowaswes, Hanlon and other DPW employees allegedly performed work at the private warehouse facility at 82 East 15th Street in Paterson while “on the clock” with the DPW. Mayor Torres allegedly directed that the work be performed and supervised the work. The daughter and nephew intended to use the warehouse as a wholesale liquor distribution facility, but they ultimately terminated the lease after failing to obtain the necessary permits and license from the state.
It is further alleged that Mania, in his capacity as a DPW supervisor, caused false time-keeping records to be submitted to the city, including overtime verification forms and bi-weekly timesheets. These records allegedly falsely stated that Mania and other DPW employees were working overtime details on legitimate city projects, when, in fact, Mania knew that he and the other employees spent at least part of these overtime shifts working at the private warehouse. By submitting and signing off on these timekeeping records and authorizing the overtime details, Mania caused the City of Paterson to make overtime payments to himself and other employees for hours spent performing private work for the mayor and his relatives, with no connection to any legitimate city business. Mania’s co-defendants, including the mayor, also are charged with falsifying these records as accomplices and co-conspirators.
Deputy Bureau Chief Jeffrey Manis and Deputy Attorneys General Cynthia Vazquez and Peter Baker presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. They are conducting the ongoing investigation with detectives in the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption North Squad. Attorney General Porrino commended all of the members of the State Police Official Corruption North Squad for their work on the investigation.
Attorney General Porrino and Division Director Elie Honig urged anyone with information pertaining to this ongoing investigation to contact the Division of Criminal Justice at its toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ to report the information confidentially. The public can also log on to the Division webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000. The official misconduct and pattern of official misconduct charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison without eligibility for parole. Third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000, with a mandatory minimum period of parole ineligibility of two years on the tampering with public records charge. Fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Peter E. Warshaw in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Bergen County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment on the charges.
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