PATERSON, N.J. -- Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres is headed to state prison for five years after admitting Friday that had city employees work at a private warehouse leased by his daughter and nephew while collecting taxpayer money.
Torres, 58, of Paterson, pleaded guilty to single charge of second-degree conspiracy before a state judge in Jersey City.
In return, state prosecutors will recommend a five-year prions term when he is sentenced.
Torres also must forfeit his position as mayor and will be permanently barred from public office and public employment in New Jersey.
The mayor is jointly and separately liable with his co-defendants for paying full restitution in the amount of $10,000 to the city of Paterson for payments, including overtime payments, made to city workers for the time they spent working at the private warehouse, Attorney General Christopher Porrino said.
Deputy Bureau Chief Jeffrey Manis and Deputy Attorneys General Cynthia Vazquez and Peter Baker prosecuted the case, and Manis and Baker took the guilty plea Friday for the state Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
“Mayor Joey Torres retracted his vigorous denials and promises of vindication and admitted to engaging in the old school corruption we charged him with earlier this year," Porrino said after the plea hearing.
"With this plea, Torres forfeits his position as mayor of New Jersey’s third-largest city, will never again be in a position to abuse the public’s trust, and will go to prison,” the attorney general said. “This type of arrogant abuse of power and public resources will not be tolerated in New Jersey.”
“I commend all of the attorneys and detectives for the Division of Criminal Justice and New Jersey State Police who secured this guilty plea,” he added. “Their skillful handling of the investigation and prosecution ensured that justice was done in this important corruption case.”
“Instead of faithfully and honestly serving the residents of Paterson, Torres crookedly chose to use the power entrusted to him to serve himself and his family, at substantial cost to city taxpayers,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice.
“Jose Torres brought dishonor upon himself by tarnishing the good name of the Office of the Mayor of the City of Paterson,” said Col. Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The betrayal of the public’s trust and improper allocation of city resources can never be tolerated.”
Torres was charged along with three supervisors in the Paterson DPW:
- Joseph Mania, 51, of Randolph, N.J., Supervisor, Paterson DPW Facilities Division;
- Imad Mowaswes, 53, of Clifton, N.J., Supervisor, Paterson DPW Traffic Division; and
- Timothy Hanlon, 31, of Woodland Park, N.J., Assistant Supervisor, Paterson DPW Facilities Division.
Their cases were still pending.
A six-count indictment obtained by the state Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and unsealed accuses them and Torres of conspiracy, official misconduct, tampering with public records and theft, among other offenses.
The indicment was part of an ongoing investigation by the state Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the NJSP Official Corruption Bureau into "alleged abuses involving the Paterson DPW and improper use of city employees and overtime pay," Porrino said.
At the mayor's behest, the indictment charges, Mania, Mowaswes and Hanlon conducted work and/or assigned subordinate employees at a private warehouse leased by “Quality Beer,” a limited liability company formed by Torres’s daughter and his nephew -- all under Torres's supervision.
The work, including "renovation, painting, carpentry, and electrical work," was done while the three supervisors and other DPW employees were working for and being paid by the city, Porrino said.
The crew did the work at 82 East 15th Street while on the clock with the DPW -- and under the direct supervision of Torres -- at various times between July 2014 and April 2015, the indictment charges.
"The daughter and nephew intended to use the warehouse as a wholesale liquor distribution facility," Porrino said, "but they ultimately terminated the lease after failing to obtain the necessary permits and license from the state.
The indictment also charges that Mania, in his capacity as a DPW supervisor, "caused false time-keeping records to be submitted to the city, including overtime verification forms and bi-weekly timesheets," the attorney general said.
The records "falsely stated that Mania and other DPW employees were working overtime details on legitimate city projects, when, in fact, Mania knew that he and the other employees spent at least part of these overtime shifts working at the private warehouse," he said.
"By submitting and signing off on these timekeeping records and authorizing the overtime details, Mania caused the City of Paterson to make overtime payments to himself and other employees for hours spent performing private work for the mayor and his relatives, with no connection to any legitimate city business," Porrino said.
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