TRENTON – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that Paterson Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres pleaded guilty today to a criminal conspiracy charge for directing that city employees perform work at a private warehouse leased by his daughter and nephew while the employees were being paid by the city.
Torres, 58, of Paterson, N.J., pleaded guilty today to a charge of second-degree conspiracy before Superior Court Judge Sheila Venable in Hudson County. Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that he be sentenced to five years in state prison. He 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 severally 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.
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 today for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. The mayor and three co-defendants were indicted in an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau North Squad.
“Today, 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. 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,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Our message is that 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,” Porrino 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. “We’ll continue to make it a top priority to root out this type of corruption, which erodes good government and undermines public trust.”
“Jose Torres brought dishonor upon himself by tarnishing the good name of the Office of the Mayor of the City of Paterson,” said Colonel 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 Department of Public Works (“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.
The investigation revealed that, at Mayor Torres’ behest and under his supervision, Mania, Mowaswes and Hanlon allegedly performed work and/or assigned subordinate employees to perform work at a private warehouse leased by “Quality Beer,” a limited liability company formed by Torres’ daughter and his nephew. The work, including renovation, painting, carpentry, and electrical work, was performed while the three supervisors and other Department of Public Works (“DPW”) employees were working for and being paid by the City of Paterson.
On multiple dates between July 2014 and April 2015, Mania, Mowaswes, Hanlon and other DPW employees allegedly performed work at the private warehouse at 82 East 15th Street in Paterson while “on the clock” for the DPW. Torres directed that the work be performed and supervised the work. The daughter and nephew intended to use the warehouse as a wholesale liquor distribution facility, but they ultimately terminated the lease after failing to obtain the necessary permits and license from the state.
The investigation further revealed that Mania, in his capacity as a DPW supervisor, allegedly caused false time-keeping records to be submitted to the city, including overtime verification forms and bi-weekly timesheets. These records allegedly falsely stated that Mania and other DPW employees were working overtime details on legitimate city projects, when, in fact, Mania allegedly knew that he and the other employees spent at least part of these overtime shifts working at the private warehouse. By submitting and signing off on these timekeeping records and authorizing the overtime details, Mania allegedly caused the city 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. Mania’s co-defendants, including the mayor, also were charged with falsifying these records as accomplices and co-conspirators.
Attorney General Porrino and Director Honig noted that individuals who report public corruption may be able to receive up to a $25,000 reward. The Division of Criminal Justice has a toll-free tip line 866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to confidentially report public corruption. Information on the Public Corruption Reward Program is posted at this link: www.nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward-info.html
The deadline for providing tips and potentially qualifying for a reward under the Public Corruption Reward Program is November 15.