TRENTON — Nearly five months after FBI agents raided the home of Trenton Mayor Tony Mack and swarmed City Hall, the first-term mayor was indicted today on charges he sold his influence to a parking garage developer in a two-year FBI sting.
Mack and his two co-defendants face an eight-count indictment accusing them of agreeing to a $119,000 bribery scheme involving his brother, Ralphiel Mack, and a longtime supporter, Joseph “JoJo” Giorgianni, the owner of JoJo’s Steak House in the city.
In addition to bribery, Mack and his co-defendants Ralphiel Mack and Giorgianni were indicted on charges of extortion, and mail and wire fraud.
“As a public official for the city of Trenton, defendant Tony F. Mack owed the city and citizens of Trenton a duty to refrain from receiving bribes and kickbacks in exchange for defendant Tony F. Mack’s official actions and influence,” the indictment reads.
Mack was indicted on six bribery and extortion counts, all linked to a parking garage project run by informants for the FBI. Mack was also charged with mail fraud for allegedly using the U.S. Mail to send the letter lowering the purchase price of the parking garage lot, which was a condition of the bribe, according to the indictment.
Ralphiel Mack also faces six charges including attempted extortion and agreeing to accept bribes.
The seven counts against Giorgianni include a new charge not previously part of the original complaint. Giorgianni is accused of accepting a bribe to help steer a nearly $5,000 power-washing city contract to a Franklin Township company.
The power-washing contractor also served as the detailer of Giorgianni’s beloved black Cadillac. Shambre Steward, the owner of Five Star Mobile Auto detailing, previously said she gave a “finder’s fee” for the work to an unnamed person for the contract to power-wash an amphitheater in a city park.
According to the indictment, Steward kicked back $1,300 to a JoJo’s Steak House employee, who gave the money to Giorgianni. Giorgianni and the city’s public property director Harold Hall were both intimately involved in getting Five Star the job at Mill Hill Park this past April, the government alleges.
“Using his authority as a city of Trenton employee, (Hall) caused this inflated invoice to be approved by shepherding the invoice through the city of Trenton approval process,” the indictment reads. Hall has not been charged.
Mack was arrested Sept. 10 on a single charge of attempted extortion, connected to the parking garage investigation. He was released later in the day on $150,000 unsecured bail.
Ralphiel Mack and Giorgianni were also charged with the attempted extortion count. Giorgianni faces additional charges of drug distribution, for his role in an alleged prescription pill-dealing ring operating out of the steak shop. He was also charged with being a convicted felon in possession of a weapon.
The pill case, in which seven other defendants were also arrested, is under a continuance that expires in early February.
The majority of charges against Mack carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. He has refused multiple requests by city officials to step down while the case remains pending.
Mack’s indictment comes two years to the day after his half-brother Stanley “Muscles” Davis was arrested following a Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office investigation of the Trenton Water Works. Davis, a Water Works supervisor, ultimately pleaded guilty to performing paid repairs to home water systems while also being paid emergency overtime.
Former acting Business Administrator Bill Guhl said the mayor relaxed the overtime rules at the Water Works shortly after taking office, which gave his half-brother the ability to authorize the extra work on his own. Though a state grand jury heard testimony from two city councilmembers who warned Mack about his brother’s activities, no charges were ever brought against the mayor.
The FBI launched an investigation into Mack in September 2010, just two months after Mack took over as Trenton’s mayor.
The sting involved a phony parking garage project on East State Street proposed by a developer working as an FBI informant, authorities have said.
Gov. Chris Christie’s office declined comment on Mack’s indictment this afternoon. Mack sent Christie a letter earlier today asking for a permanent detachment of state troopers to police the capital city, as well as funds to hire more police officers amid a surge in gun violence.
The government alleges that Mack used “buffers,” including Giorgianni, Ralphiel Mack, and a city official previously identified as former Trenton Water Works employee Charles Hall III, in the bribery scheme.
The third count of the indictment – accepting and agreeing to accept bribes – was leveled partially because the city received federal assistance in the form of grants during a one-year period.
“In exchange for these corrupt cash payments and other things of value, defendant Tony F. Mack agreed to, and did, exercise official authority and influence…in acquiring and developing the East State Street lot,” the indictment reads.
At least two cooperating witnesses, including the developer, recorded numerous conversations during the sting, and the FBI made extensive use of wiretaps in the case. Mack’s phone was among those being tapped by the FBI.
While the total bribe was expected to be $119,000, FBI agents raided Mack’s house and City hall in July after the first $54,000 was paid, authorities said. Mack, Ralphiel Mack and Giorgianni were arrested in September after a 31-page criminal complaint was filed.
Mack’s attorney Mark Davis said Monday that the mayor would not consider any offer of a plea deal and planned to take the case to trial.
Giorigianni, a convicted sex offender, faces separate charges in a prescription drug dealing case filed at the same time as the corruption arrests. No indictments have been issued in that case, which remains ongoing, and neither Mack is involved in that case, authorities said.
Ralphiel Mack, who was the head coach of the Trenton Central High School football team at the time of his arrest, remains suspended with pay from his job with the district. All three men are free on unsecured bail.
Mayor Mack could not be reached for comment today, although just prior to the release of the indictments a press release regarding violence in the city was sent on Mack’s behalf. He was not at his City Hall office or his home on Berkeley Avenue this morning.
The criminal complaint filed against Mack in September extensively details conversations he had with Giorgianni that were captured on wire taps. The men often talked in code and used aliases, the complaint states.
Giorgianni also used the code word “Uncle Remus” to refer to the cash payments, according to the complaint.
Giorgianni referred to Mack as “Honey Fitz,” the Little Guy,” and “Napoleon,” the complaint states. Giorgianni went by the aliases “JoJo,” “Mr. Baker,” and “the Fat Man.”
Soon after Mack’s election in 2010, Giorgianni met with the would-be developer and told him that the mayor was ready to make deals, the complaint states. That conversation was recorded.
“We want this,” Giorgianni said, according to the complaint. “What do you think we did all this for? I like to make money for my friends. I like to do it like the Boss Tweed way. You know Boss Tweed ran Tamany Hall?”
The bribes, however, did not start to be paid until Oct. 27, 2011, the complaint states. The investigation stalled for several months as Mack faced a recall effort led by city activists. The recall fell short of collecting enough signatures to move forward.
On June 8, the complaint alleges a cooperating witness went to JoJo’s Steak House with $25,000 split in three carriers. Two large leather folios contained $10,000 apiece, while $5,000 was kept in an envelope. The witness gave the money to Giorgianni with the instruction that $10,000 of the cash was mean for Mack, the complaint states.
During the July raids by FBI agents, $100 bills with serial numbers being tracked in the investigation were seized at Ralphiel Mack’s house.
Tony Mack has declined to discuss specifics of the case since the FBI raids began, and has repeated the same refrain recently at public appearances:
“In America, you are innocent until proven guilty,” Mack said. “And I am innocent.”
Source: The Star Ledger