Monday, September 10, 2012
Black political crime: Federal authorities arrested Trenton, New Jersey Mayor Tony Mack and more than half a dozen other people in connection with an ongoing corruption probe
Mack faces federal charges including conspiracy to obstruct commerce by extortion. Joseph "JoJo" Giorgianni, a top campaign contributor, and six others were also taken into custody. Mack, an African-American Democrat, faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted on extortion charges, prosecutors said. In recorded conversations, Giorgianni said, "I can be bought," "We want this," "I like to do it the Boss Tweed way, you know, Boss Tweed ran Tammany Hall," and "Tony knows when I'm in for a penny I'm in for a pound," according to a criminal complaint. During the conversations, Giorgianni referred to Mack using the code name "Napoleon," the complaint said. Mack and the others arrested were brought to the FBI office in Hamilton for processing and were scheduled to appear in federal court. The arrests are the latest development in a federal investigation that began in 2010 into corruption within Mack's administration, which has been marked by accusations of nepotism and reckless spending. In July 2012, FBI agents searched offices in Trenton City Hall a day after raiding the mayor's home. They also searched the home of his brother, Ralphiel Mack, and that of Giorgianni. In the first of two criminal complaints, Tony and Ralphiel Mack and Giorgianni were charged with conspiracy in connection with a parking garage project. The complaint says that cash payments intended for Mayor Mack were made by a cooperating witness to Giorgianni inside his restaurant. In the second complaint Giorgianni and eight others, not including the Macks, were charged with conspiracy to obtain and fill prescriptions for oxycodone-based pain medications, and to distribute the pain medications. Federal prosecutors said that Mack and his co-conspirators were willing to let city property go for a fraction of its worth. "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," U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said in a statement. Mack's administration has been in turmoil from Day 1, staggering from one crisis to another. A housecleaning of staff at City Hall opened the door for Mack's own appointees, who quickly turned it into a revolving door. Some left over questions about their credentials, others to face criminal charges. In Mack's first year in office in Trenton, a city of 85,000, he ran through a string of business administrators. The first resigned after a month, saying that the mayor didn't believe in good government. Another resigned just ahead of pleading guilty to embezzlement at another job. Mack's housing director quit after it emerged that he had a theft conviction. His chief of staff was arrested trying to buy heroin. His half-brother, whose authority he elevated at the city water plant, was arrested on charges of stealing. Questions have also been raised about how he financed his campaign for mayor. A former longtime city employee sued the mayor late in 2011. The parks department employee said that she was let go after refusing to dole out jobs for the mayor's friends, refusing to give federal grant money to people who didn't apply and for inquiring about city funds that were missing. The ex-employee was also replaced by a Mack supporter who never showed up for his $40,000-a-year job.