PASSAIC, N.J. – Former Passaic Mayor Alex Blanco was sentenced to a plea-bargained 27 months in federal prison Tuesday for taking $110,000 in bribes from developers doing business in the city.
Because it's the federal system -- which has no parole -- the 45-year-old Blanco will have to serve nearly all of the term after pleading guilty last November to “soliciting and accepting corrupt payments" in connection with city business.
He'll also have to undergo three years of supervised release and pay the full amount of the bribes back to the city, under the sentence imposed by U.S. District Judge William J. Martini in Newark.
Blanco admitted that he had had an “intermediary” tell two developers granted approvals to build eight low-income residential units on property they owned in Passaic that they were expected to provide a "sizable" payment to him to ensure that the project would proceed.
Soon after, the City Council approved the earmarked release of $216,400 in Housing and Urban Development (HUD) funds to the developers for the project.
“In early September 2011, Blanco arranged for a meeting with the developers at which he solicited and agreed to accept $75,000,” according to a complaint on file in U.S. District Court in Newark.
"The next day, he arranged for a meeting with one of the developers in Clifton and asked for the corrupt payment in cash," the complaint says, "but was told by the developer that the developer had brought signed, blank checks, which could be made out to payees of Blanco’s choosing.
“Blanco obtained those checks – totaling $65,000 – once the payee lines had been filled in, arranged for them to be cashed, and pocketed the cash proceeds.”
A little over a week later, the complaint says, Blanco “arranged for another meeting in Passaic with one of the developers and solicited and accepted two additional checks totaling $40,000, proceeds of which were ultimately provided to Blanco in cash.
“In March 2012, Blanco accepted cash proceeds from an additional $5,000 check solicited on his behalf,” it adds. “Much of the $110,000 in corrupt payments was derived from the HUD monies that had been released to the developers in 2011.” Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick credited special agents of the FBI and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, with the investigation leading to Blanco's guilty plea and sentence.
He also thanked special agents of the Office of Inspector General, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for their assistance.
Handling the case for Fitzpatrick's office is Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark J. McCarren of the the Special Prosecutions Division in Newark and Assistant U.S. Attorney James M. Donnelly of the Criminal Division in Newark.