Corruption charges against Paterson mayor: Family business used city workers
PATERSON — A defiant Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres is protesting his innocence after state prosecutors charged him and three city employees in an alleged corruption scheme that directed municipal employees to work at a warehouse owned by the mayor's daughter and nephew.
The four were charged after an investigation showed Torres had directed city employees to work at the Quality Beer warehouse, which was owned by his relatives, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced Tuesday.
Over the course of nearly a year, workers renovated the property, painted, and performed carpentry and electrical work at at the building, prosecutors said.
Porrino said the plan was for the building to be used as a wholesale liquor distribution facility. But because the owners could not get the permits and license needed, the lease was terminated.
Porrino said the work was being done while the employees were on the clock working for the city.
"This is a case of old-school public corruption and abuse of power," Porrino said. "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."
The co-defendants are Joseph Mania, 51, of Randolph, Imad Mowaswes, 52, of Clifton, and Timothy Hanlon, 30, of Woodland Park. Mania and Mowaswes work as supervisors in the department, while Hanlon is an assistant supervisor.
"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," Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice said.
Porrino said Mania allegedly submitted false time sheets and overtime forms to be submitted, which showed the employees were working on "legitimate city projects." All the defendants, including the mayor, are charged with falsifying these records.
The charges may not have come as a surprise to the residents of New Jersey's third-largest city. An investigation by NBC New York last year claimed city employees were seen working at the mayor's home. In November, the FBI raided city offices as part of an investigation into the use of federal funds for a prisoner re-entry program. Neither scandal, however, figured into the charges that state prosecutors announced Tuesday.
The men are charged with second-degree conspiracy, second-degree official misconduct, second-degree pattern of official misconduct, third-degree theft by unlawful taking or disposition, third-degree tampering with public records or information, and fourth-degree falsifying or tampering with records.
The attorney general said second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a 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 parole. The 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 for tampering with public records. The fourth-degree charge carries a sentence of up to 18 months and a fine of up to $10,000.
In a statement read by a spokesperson for the mayor, he said he will not be stepping down following the indictment and looks forward to proving his innocence in court.
Torres was first elected mayor in 2002, when he became the city largely Hispanic city's first Latino mayor.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com