TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - The mayor of New Jersey’s struggling capital city was convicted of bribery, fraud and extortion Friday, joining a long list of New Jersey mayors guilty of corruption in recent years.
A federal jury found Trenton Mayor Tony Mack and his brother, Ralphiel, participated in a scheme to take money in exchange for helping get approvals to develop a downtown parking garage. The deal was fictitious and part of a government sting operation.
Tony Mack was convicted of official extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion, accepting bribes, mail fraud and wire fraud. Ralphiel Mack was convicted on the extortion and bribery counts but acquitted on the others.
The jury deliberated for one full day before reaching its verdict.
Jurors did not buy Tony Mack’s defense that he was unaware of the nature of the building project and never accepted any bribes. Neither defendant testified during the trial.
Mack has remained in office as head of New Jersey’s capital city since his arrest more than two years ago. With his conviction, he becomes the latest New Jersey mayor to run afoul of the law.
Since 2000, mayors of Newark, Camden, Paterson, Perth Amboy, Hoboken, Passaic, Asbury Park, Orange and Hamilton, among others, have been convicted or pleaded guilty in corruption cases.
In Mack’s case, prosecutors portrayed the mayor as an eager participant in the bribery scheme. They said he agreed to sell city-owned property assessed for well over $200,000 for just $100,000 in exchange for bribes.
Authorities said $54,000 was passed to Joseph “JoJo” Giorgianni - a Trenton restaurant owner and political dealmaker who pleaded guilty in the case last year - in 2011 and 2012 and that an additional $65,000 was agreed on. He was to pass the money to Mack, authorities said.
Giorgianni and the Mack brothers were heard during the trial on secretly recorded phone calls using what prosecutors contended were code words - “cheesesteaks” and “Uncle Remus” to mean cash payments - and that they used them frequently.
A friend of Giorgianni testified that she saw Mack accept cash. Giorgianni didn’t testify but was heard during the trial on numerous wiretaps blustering about his alleged influence with Mack and other city officials.
Ralphiel Mack had $2,500 in his possession at the time of his arrest that had been given to him by Giorgianni. His attorney contended that Ralphiel Mack never intended to pass the money to his brother and instead was going to use it to pay his mortgage.
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