- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 20, 2020

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) - A Newark city councilman conspired with an associate to shake down companies seeking development and construction projects in the city, the U.S. attorney’s office charged in a complaint released Tuesday.

Joseph McCallum Jr. faces one count of honest services wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison upon conviction. The U.S. attorney’s office also said Tuesday a co-conspirator in the scheme, consultant Malik Frederick, pleaded guilty to wire fraud and filing a false tax return.

The 65-year-old McCallum, an Air Force veteran and Newark native who has worked as a substance abuse counselor for the Veterans Administration, according to his biography on the council’s website, has been a city council member since 2014. Elections in Newark are nonpartisan and candidates are not listed by political party.

According to the complaint, Frederick, 60, took money from the companies in exchange for providing access to McCallum, who used his position on the council and as a member of the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation to help their efforts.

Included in the scheme were a $16,000 bribe from a contracting company and a $25,000 bribe and kickback form a developer’s company, according to the complaint.

McCallum’s attorney, Timothy Donohue, said in an email, “We intend to vigorously defend these charges and to prove Mr. McCallum’s innocence.”

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