(Source: FBI) - TRENTON, NJ—Trenton Mayor Tony F. Mack; the mayor’s brother, Ralphiel Mack; and his close associate, Joseph A. “JoJo” Giorgianni, were arrested by federal agents this morning and charged by criminal complaint in connection with a scheme to extort payments of more than $100,000 from others who were purportedly developing a public parking garage, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
The complaint charges that over the past two years, Mack, 46, and his associates negotiated with two individuals who were cooperating with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and FBI and agreed to expedite approvals and sell city-owned property at a fraction of its value. Giorgianni also was charged in a separate complaint along with eight other defendants with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone pills in the Trenton area.
The following defendants also were charged in the drug conspiracy complaint:
All 11 defendants are scheduled to make their initial court appearances this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Douglas E. Arpert in Trenton federal court.
“Time and again, we have seen public officials in New Jersey who are all too willing to sell their power and betray the public’s trust,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “Here, the complaint charges that Mayor Mack and his co-conspirators were willing to let city property go for a fraction of its worth. And he allegedly chose as his middleman a convicted felon who was simultaneously heading a conspiracy to traffic in prescription medication. Neither selling one’s oath of office or illegally selling prescription medication is acceptable on the streets of Trenton or anywhere else in New Jersey.”
“The citizens of New Jersey’s state capital deserve far better than politicians and cronies who aspire to the Boss Tweed-style, Tammany Hall politics of patronage, graft, and corruption,” said Michael Ward, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Newark Division. “Public service is not an open invitation to enrich one’s self via illegal means. At no time should elected officials have need for middlemen, ‘buffers,’ and coded conversations.”
The investigation, which lasted nearly two years, included the execution of search warrants, court-ordered wiretaps, and consensually recorded conversations. The extortion conspiracy count with which the defendants are charged is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The Extortion Conspiracy
According to the complaint filed against Tony F. Mack; Joseph A. Giorgianni, 63, of Ewing; and Ralphiel Mack, 39, of Trenton:
As mayor, Mack influenced actions taken on behalf of the city of Trenton, including matters concerning the disposition of city-owned property. Giorgianni, a convicted felon and the proprietor of a Trenton sandwich shop called JoJo’s Steakhouse, is Mayor Mack’s associate. Ralphiel Mack is Mayor Mack’s brother and was employed by the Trenton Board of Education as Trenton Central High School’s head football coach.
The Macks, Giorgianni, and others conspired to corrupt certain functions of Trenton city government in favor of a purported developer who was seeking to build a parking garage on a city-owned lot on East State Street. In reality, the developer was cooperating with federal authorities. During the course of the negotiations, which lasted almost two years, the defendants agreed to accept more than $119,000 in bribes, of which $54,000 had been paid at the time of their arrests.
To attempt to evade law enforcement detection, the defendants employed intermediaries, used code words, and attempted to limit their discussions of the scheme over the telephone.
Beginning in September 2010, Giorgianni had several recorded meetings with an individual who was cooperating with law enforcement (CW-1), during which Giorgianni agreed to serve as an intermediary, or “buffer,” for cash payments to Mayor Mack in exchange for the mayor’s support of a parking garage project. During these meetings, Giorgianni described his intent to promote and facilitate a corrupt system of government in Trenton. During a September 14, 2010, meeting, Giorgianni stated that he conducted business in the city of Trenton the way “Boss Tweed” ran “Tammany Hall” and provided examples of how kickbacks should be received in exchange for city contracts.
Between October 27, 2011, and June 28, 2012, the conspirators accepted seven cash payments from CW-1 and another individual cooperating with law enforcement (CW-2):
In exchange for those payments, it was agreed that Mayor Mack and another, uncharged public official (CC-1) would take official action favorable to CW-1’s and CW-2’s interests concerning the parking garage project. Following certain of these payments, Giorgianni would signal to the mayor that he had received cash by using the code words “Uncle Remus.”
On October 27, 2011, Giorgianni accepted a $3,000 corrupt cash payment from CW- 1. Moments later, Giorgianni sent a text message to Mayor Mack stating, “Uncle remins [sic] landed uncles remnis [sic] call me.”
On January 25, 2012, Giorgianni, CC-1, CW-1, and CW-2 discussed the proposed corrupt transaction and future payments to Mayor Mack and Giorgianni. During a telephone call the next day, Giorgianni told the mayor that “Uncle Remus might be stopping by.” During a February 1, 2012, telephone call, Giorgianni reiterated that “Uncle Remus is gonna stop and visit us, so I wanted to tell you about it.” Mayor Mack replied, “All right. I’m gonna stop by there to see you.”
On April 25, 2012, Giorgianni accepted a $3,000 cash payment from CW-1. During an April 30, 2012 telephone call, Giorgianni informed Mayor Mack that “Ralphiel said he was going to stop up. Uncle Remus, ya know, stopped by.”
On June 8, 2012, Giorgianni accepted a $25,000 cash payment from CW-2. The next day, while inside JoJo’s Steakhouse with Giorgianni, CC-1 called the mayor and informed him that “Uncle Remus came to town today.” The mayor stated: “Yeah?” and laughed. Later in the call, CC-1 repeated, “M–, Mr. Remus came around.” The mayor stated that he would “be around, I’ll be around today.”
On June 28, 2012, CC-1 (who began cooperating with federal law enforcement on June 21, 2012) met with Giorgianni and delivered to him a $10,000 corrupt cash payment. The meeting between Giorgianni and CC-1 concluded at approximately 6:17 p.m. At approximately 6:19 p.m., Giorgianni sent Mayor Mack a text message stating, “Uncle remis [sic] is in town mr bakers.” (In text messages to the mayor, Giorgianni previously referred to himself as “Mr. Baker.”)
In connection with the $10,000 received on June 28, 2012, both Mayor Mack and Giorgianni expressed significant concern to CC-1 that they might be the subjects of a law enforcement investigation because CC-1 had received that money directly from CW-2 and because CW-2 did use not Giorgianni as a “buffer” to pass through the money on that occasion. In a June 28, 2012, recorded meeting during which Giorgianni accepted the $10,000 from CC-1, Giorgianni chastised CC-1 for taking this money directly from CW-2 and not going through Giorgianni, reminding CC-1 that the “ground rules … put down by Tony” were that “[n]obody in the administration touches nothing.” Giorgianni told CC-1 that it was important to use “buffers” to take corrupt money. “As long as you got buffers, you’re safe. Look, Tony [Mack] knows they ain’t never gonna break me. Tony seen me do something real serious one day. He knows I’m not giving nobody up. I don’t give a ****. Jail, that’s my business. I don’t give a ****. So, Tony’s safe.” Then, referring to employing Ralphiel Mack as an intermediary to pass money for the benefit of the mayor, Giorgianni told CC-1, “I even keep Tony safe where I’ll give money to Ralphiel.”
Ralphiel Mack is charged with participating in the conspiracy by serving as an intermediary to receive certain corrupt cash payments from Giorgianni on Mayor Mack’s behalf. A July 18, 2012, search of Ralphiel Mack’s house revealed $2,500 in United States currency bearing the same serial numbers as the bills delivered to Giorgianni as part of the June 28, 2012 corrupt cash payment.
In exchange for the money, the agreement contemplated that the mayor would use his influence to get the necessary approvals for the project. As the conspiracy developed, the mayor and Giorgianni proposed that the city sell the land for the parking garage to the developer for a reduced price in exchange for a larger bribe.
Initially, on May 15, 2012, a city of Trenton official (Trenton Official-1) e-mailed CW-2 letter stating that the total assessed value for the East State Street lot was $278,000 and that the land value was $271,600. CW-1 and CW-2 later discussed with Giorgianni that CW-2 and the project investors would be willing to purchase the East State Street lot for $200,000 and would be willing to pay a bribe to the mayor in exchange for the price reduction. Giorgianni, in turn, proposed that the city of Trenton set the sale price for the East State Street lot at $100,000 and that the $100,000 difference be split among Mayor Mack, Giorgianni, and CC-1. Giorgianni requested a draft offer letter reflecting the $100,000 purchase price for the East State Street lot, which CW-2 provided to Giorgianni on May 23, 2012.
Moments after a May 29, 2012 meeting with Mayor Mack, Giorgianni called CC-1 and stated, “I got the okay from you know who, right? Tell [Trenton Official-1] to get that letter out, today.” CC-1 then met with Trenton Official-1, whose responsibilities included negotiating the sale of city-owned property and requested Trenton Official-1 to issue the $100,000 offer letter. Trenton Official-1, in turn, called Mayor Mack, who, instead of discussing the matter over the telephone, directed Trenton Official-1 to meet him in person. Trenton Official-1 then met with the mayor, who approved the letter offering the East State Street lot to CW-2 and the investors for $100,000, and the offer letter was issued that day.
The Drug Distribution Conspiracy
Giorgianni, along with eight other defendants, also appeared in court today facing oxycodone distribution charges. (Neither Mayor Mack or Ralphiel Mack were charged with the narcotics conspiracy.)
According to the complaint:
Oxycodone, the active ingredient in brand name pills such as Oxycontin, Roxicodone, and Percocet, is a Schedule II controlled substance—meaning that it has a high potential for abuse.
Giorgianni organized and oversaw a Trenton-based oxycodone distribution conspiracy responsible for the distribution of thousands of oxycodone pills. Giorgianni arranged for the sale of pain pills prescribed to him and facilitated the distribution of oxycodone prescribed to some of the other defendants and others in this case. JoJo’s Steakhouse, a sandwich shop that Giorgianni owned and that Mary Manfredo operated, served as a front for this drug distribution organization and a clearing house where prescription pain pills were stored, provided to drug dealers for distribution, and where narcotics proceeds were returned. The investigation uncovered evidence that Giorgianni and the other coconspirators used a doctor and pharmacy in Mercer County and another doctor in Essex County to obtain and fill these prescriptions, which were in large part obtained through fraud.
Numerous conversations were intercepted on the wiretaps among Giorgianni, other defendants named in the complaint, and CC-1 prior to the time CC-1 began cooperating with authorities on June 21, 2012. Based on the recorded conversations and information subsequently learned from CC-1, Anthony Dimatteo, Ralph Dimatteo, Sr. and Giuseppe “Joseph” Scordato distributed prescription pain medication fraudulently obtained on behalf of the operation. In one recorded conversation, Scordato described to Giorgianni his efforts to cause an individual, who according to Scordato had just undergone open heart surgery, to become addicted to oxycodone by providing this individual with a free pill as a sample. Giorgianni, in many intercepted telephone calls, used coded language such as “steaks” to refer to the prescription pain pills.
CC-1 was supplied prescription pain medication from Eugene Brown, an Atlantic City resident, a portion of which Mark Bethea would distribute and a portion of which was delivered to Jojo’s Steakhouse for distribution. Carol Kounitz and Stephanie Lima also fraudulently obtained prescription pain medication and provided this medication to CC-1 to be distributed.
Giorgianni, who has a prior felony conviction, also is charged with unlawfully possessing four firearms which, along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition, were recovered from his residence during the execution of a search warrant. Eugene Brown, who also has a prior felony conviction, is charged with unlawfully possessing a loaded firearm, found in his residence during the execution of a search warrant.
The drug conspiracy count with which the defendants are charged is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The felon in possession of firearms counts, with which Giorgianni and Brown are each charged, is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward with the investigation leading to today’s arrests.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric W. Moran and Matthew J. Skahill of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Trenton and Camden, respectively.
The charges and allegations contained in the complaints are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.