A mayor in New Jersey’s capital city is in some legal hot water after he was taken away in handcuffs by the FBI following a massive corruption probe focused on his office. Tony Mack, the mayor of Trenton, was arrested on Monday – along with seven others – the latest step in the continued corruption investigation. Court papers showed Mack was caught taking bribes as part of an FBI sting. Mack’s brother, Ralphiel, and convicted sex offender and campaign contributor Joseph Giorgianni, are accused of conspiring to obstruct, delay and affect interstate commerce by extortion. The criminal complaint against them shows they were approached by a cooperating witness who was working with authorities to get a better deal for criminal charges he was facing. Federal prosecutors allege Mack agreed to use his influence in connection with a proposed parking garage project. The court papers show he and a second witness, who was paid, provided the Mack brothers and Giorgianni $54,000 and promised another $65,000.
The criminal complaint portrays Giorgianni as a boastful man who did most of the talking with two FBI informants – one who was cooperating to get a better deal in his own criminal case, another who was paid. The sting was similar to the massive ‘Bid Rig’ sting that resulted criminal charges against 46 people – many of them local New Jersey officials – in 2009. Then, bribes were attached to fictitious development projects. Prosecutors have had mixed success in winning convictions. Giorgianni complains at one point that Mack cannot take bribes because he’s being watched so closely, the documents said. ‘It’s sickening,’ he told one of the informants, according to the court papers. ‘I like to make money for my friends,’ he said, according to the papers, and went on to reference infamously corrupt political boss William M. Tweed.
I like to do it like the Boss Tweed way. You know Boss Tweed ran Tammany Hall?’ He was also caught on tape telling one of the informants: ‘One thing about the Mack administration – when I say that, it’s me and Mack – we’re not greedy. We’re corruptible. We want anybody to make a buck,’ and ‘I’m there to buffer the thing where, you know, take the weight… going to jail’s my business. It ain’t his.’ By contrast, when Mack was recorded, it was mostly just to say he’d meet someone or exchanging pleasantries. But in April, he was recorded at a meeting with Giorgianni and one of the informants saying, ‘I really appreciate what you guys have done for us. I appreciate your support and, like before, I support you and I’ll keep on supporting you. Authorities say, though, that Mack, whom Giorgianni referred to as ‘Napoleon’ was involved in the scheme. One piece of evidence they offer is that Giorgianni referred to money by code – calling it ‘Uncle Remus’ – when he spoke with Mack, and that Mack seemed to know what he was saying. The complaint also said that $2,500 in $100 bills with the serial numbers of those given to Giorgianni were found in a search of Ralphiel Mack’s home in July. Tony Mack was taken to an FBI office in Hamilton for processing and was driven into a secure area of the federal courthouse in Trenton at around 11am. 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. Court documents show federal agents began investigating Mack and the others in September 2010. They searched their homes in July of this year. Authorities say the defendants received $54,000 and anticipated accepting another $65,000 from a cooperating witness who purported to be a developer. The arrest comes months after federal authorities raided Mack’s office at Trenton City Hall and his home. Agents were on Thursday searching through documents in several departments, including that of recently appointed city business administrator Sam Hutchinson. The Democrat’s first two years in office have been marked by repeated accusations of reckless spending, cronyism and mismanagement. Questions have also lingered about how Mack financed his 2010 campaign at a time of personal financial problems. Mack’s home and other properties have faced foreclosure, and the city reported in June that he, his brother and Giorgianni were all late making property tax payments. Born and raised in the Wilbur section of Trenton, Mack was sworn into office on July 1 2010, after a defeating Manuel ‘Manny’ Segura. Succeeding Douglas H. Palmer, who had served as mayor of Trenton for the previous 20-years, Mack has become a controversial figure in Trenton politics. Last year, thousands of Trenton residents tried and failed in their bid to have Mack removed from office on grounds that he was leading the city in the wrong direction. They claimed that Mack was establishing unstable leadership at the cabinet level and had made more than 105 police officers in the city unemployed.