2 men arrested after another pleads guilty in $470k Jersey City kickback scheme


Two men were charged after another pleaded guilty for participating in a kickback scheme to defraud the owner of a condominium complex in Jersey City out of $470,700, U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger announced.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Ranaldo Bennett, 40, of Jersey City, and Jonathan Smith, 56, of Montclair, were each charged in a three-count complaint with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.

Smith was arrested earlier today and will have his initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward S. Kiel in Newark federal court. Bennett was arrested earlier in the week and had his initial appearance before Judge Kiel on August 7th.

Nathaniel Obedos, 56, of Jersey City, pleaded guilty on July 6th, before U.S. District Judge Karen M. Williams in Camden federal court to an information charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

From November 2018 through October 2020, Obedos conspired with Bennett and Smith to engage in a kickback scheme to defraud the owner of an unnamed Jersey City condominium complex, according to court documents.

Bennett was the complex’s lead property manager and Smith was its superintendent. They steered repair and maintenance work to Obedos and his company in exchange for kickbacks from Obedos.

They also allegedly falsified invoices that grossly inflated the value of Obedos’s work. Relying on those fake invoices, the complex paid Obedos the inflated prices, and Obedos then used the excess money to pay Bennett and Smith kickbacks.

In total, the complex paid Obedos and his company over $1 million for work that was actually valued at $500,000. Obedos used the overpayments to pay $460,000 in kickbacks to Bennett and over $10,700 in kickbacks to Smith.

The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years, and the money laundering charges each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

Each charge also carries a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. Obedos’ sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 9, 2023.

Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to the plea and arrests.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Blake Coppotelli of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit.

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