[UPDATED 4:15 p.m.] The mayor of Trenton could be facing 20 years behind bars. He was arrested this morning, accused of taking bribes in exchange for selling a piece of city-owned land to a developer on the cheap.
[UPDATED 4:15 p.m.] Trenton Mayor Tony Mack was busted by a sting operation. He was arrested Monday morning, accused of taking bribes in exchange for selling a piece of city-owned land to a developer on the cheap.
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman says the FBI used confidential informants to offer money to Mack to buy a lot on East State Street and turn it into a parking garage. Fishman says the mayor’s brother and local restaurant owner Joseph Giorgianni were used as intermediaries.
“All told, the conspirators had contemplated payments of $119,000, and $54,000 had been received by Mack and Georgianni so far,” said Fishman at a news conference on Monday.
Fishman said more than a dozen recorded conversations document the plot.
“The land had an assessed value of $271,000. They offered to pay $200,000 and pay a bribe to the mayor and Giorgianni for that price reduction,” said Fishman. “Giorgianni, on behalf of himself and Mack, made a counter proposal. Since the developers were willing to pay $200,000 for the land, why not have them only pay $100,000 for the land and let Mack and Giorgianni split the extra $100,000.”
FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Ward said confidential informants handed over the cash. Ward says approximately seven bribe payments were made between October 27, 2011 and June 28, 2012.
Ward says Mack tried to put some distance between himself and the developers.
“This investigation showed the mayor went to great lengths to insulate himself, using a convicted felon as his alleged bagman and his brother to handle the money,” Ward said.
Trenton residents gathered at the courthouse when word began to spread about the arrest. Some were happy to hear of Mack’s arrest, asking if he would be held pending trial. Prosecutors said that won’t happen.
Something fishy for a long time
Jerell Blakeley, once was Mayor Mack’s campaign manager, says he quit the campaign when he saw problems with Mack.
“This guy was totally out to lunch,” he said. “He violated every type of good government. His own B.A. said he didn’t believe in good government. I don’t think Trentonians knew what they were electing when they elected him. I surely didn’t.”
David Ponton led the effort to recall Mayor Mack even before he was charged.
“At the end of the recall when we got 85 hundred signatures and realized that we were short of having him recalled out of officewe said in the office that night he gonna wish we recalled him versus what is going to happen to him.”
Lee Ingram came to the courthouse to see the mayor in handcuffs. “From the beginning you could see the corruption in his administration and when you brought it to his attention he would turn a blind eye to it, he would do nothing about it. So that gave me the impression that he was ok with it,” said Ingram.
Federal agents began investigating Mack and the others in September 2010.
From day one, Mack’s administration has been in turmoil, staggering from one crisis to another.
A housecleaning of staff at City Hall opened the door for Mack’s own appointees, who quickly turned it into a revolving door.
Under an agreement reached last year, the Democrat can hire department heads only from a pool of applicants the state offers or he risks losing $6 million in state aid.
One of his early backers was Giorgianni. The businessman went to prison in the 1980’s on charges of carnally abusing and debauching the morals of a 14-year-old girl in the back of his sandwich shop. The case gained notoriety because of weight-related health problems that got Giorgianni, a steakhouse owner who once claimed to tip the scale at over 500 pounds, released and led a prosecutor to charge he “ate his way out of jail.”
Mack isn’t the first New Jersey mayor charged with corruption. Mayor Sharpe James of Newark and Milton Milan of Camden also were charged and convicted on corruption.
Mack could facing 20 years behind bars. He is now free on bail with trial not expected before early 2013.
View criminal complaint against Tony F. Mack below.