NJ corruption: Man had on-the-clock DPW employees work at his business, authorities say
Authorities say a former business owner conspired to have employees of the North Bergen DPW do construction jobs at his deli and meat distributing business while they were still on the clock with the township.
Joseph Lorenzo, 78, of West New York was indicted by a state grand jury on charges of second-degree conspiracy, second-degree official misconduct and third-degree theft by unlawful taking, according to an announcement by Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman.
The indictment alleges he conspired with other people — not named in the indictment. But the corruption investigation into North Bergen's DPW is an ongoing matter.
Two former supervisors for the North Bergen DPW, Troy Bunero and Francis Longo, are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 12 after being convicted June 30 of official misconduct for assigning municipal employees to work on election campaigns and complete personal chores or projects for them or their boss, Superintendent James Wiley.
Wiley previously pleaded guilty and will face a sentence of five to 10 years in prison. He reportedly said he was "ordered" to send crews to campaign in other communities.
The charges against Lorenzo are the result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, Hoffman said.
The indictment alleges that on at least three occasions between January 2011 and May 2011, Lorenzo and his co-conspirators had work performed by employees of the North Bergen DPW at the family-owned business during regular work hours or while the DPW employees were being paid overtime by the township. It is further alleged that the workers used township vehicles, equipment and materials to perform the work.
“The residents of North Bergen don’t pay property taxes so that township workers, vehicles and equipment can be used to perform favors for people who have the right connections,” Hoffman said. “We’re working hard to root out this type of corruption.”
“We’ve already convicted three former supervisors for the North Bergen Department of Public Works of abusing their authority by using township workers and resources for their personal purposes,” Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice said in a statement Hoffman's office provided. “This indictment, however, sends an important new message by demonstrating that we will aggressively prosecute anyone who seeks to benefit from public corruption, whether or not they hold any public employment or official position.”
It is alleged specifically that DPW workers performed the following tasks at the family-owned business, according to Hoffman's office:
- On May 26, 2011, five DPW employees allegedly spent approximately five to six hours repairing the parking lot of the business. The work was performed during regular work hours, so the employees were paid by the township for this work, and it was performed with township vehicles and equipment. In addition, the crew used approximately three tons of asphalt that was purchased by the township.
- On Saturday, March 19, 2011, three DPW workers allegedly spent five hours installing a guard rail on the premises of the business while being paid at the overtime rate of time and a half by the township.
- Two to three weeks before the guardrail was installed, the same three DPW workers allegedly spent about four hours during their regular work day removing a damaged gate and fence at the front of the business. The gate had been damaged when it was struck by a truck that was in the parking lot of the business. A DPW truck was used to haul away the gate and fence.