Two men, one of whom is an ex-employee of the Hudson County Improvement Authority, were indicted on charges of extorting thousands of dollars in illegal payments in order to arrange approvals of landfill materials for the Lincoln Park Skyway Golf Course project in Jersey City, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Gerard Pica, 65, of Middletown and James Castaldo, 59, of Beachwood were indicted by a federal grand jury on February 10 and each charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right affecting interstate commerce, two counts of extortion under color of official right affecting interstate commerce, and two counts of accepting and agreeing to accept corrupt payments, officials said.
All the charges are related to Pica’s employment at the HCIA. They appeared before U.S. District Court Judge Steven C. Mannion in Newark federal court yesterday, authorities said.
According to court documents, the HCIA was overseeing the construction of a nine-hole public golf course located at Lincoln Park West in Jersey City.
As part of its construction, the LPW project required several hundred thousand cubic yards of soil, fill material and crushed stone to be incorporated into the site, as well as to serve as road bedding during the construction of the golf course, officials said.
As the overseer of the LPW project, one of the functions of the HCIA—either directly or through a designated contractor—was to serve as a gatekeeper for any material to be delivered to the LPW site, authorities said.
It was the HCIA’s responsibility to solicit, evaluate and decide which contractors’ proposals to accept for the provision of soil and fill material for the LPW project, the indictment states.
From at least August 2010 to November 2011, Pica and Castaldo and others schemed to obtain payments from certain contractors in exchange for Pica and another individual using their influence over the HCIA on two matters, court papers show.
Within the HCIA, an individual referred to in the indictment as “Employee 1” had authority and discretion over matters involving the selection of, and the administration of the conduct of, contractors seeking to deliver soil and fill material to the LPW project site.
As a result of Pica’s employment with the HCIA and his association with Employee 1, Pica had the ability to influence the HCIA’s decisions regarding the selection of contractors to provide soil and fill material to the LPW project, officials said.
The first three counts of the indictment involve an alleged scheme by Pica and Castaldo to obtain corrupt payments from a person listed in the indictment as “Individual 1,” who was an associate of Pica and the owner of an environmental consulting firm.
Pica and Castaldo agreed to obtain payments from Individual 1 to be shared among Pica, Castaldo and Employee 1 in exchange for Pica and Employee 1 using their authority and influence at the HCIA to ensure that Individual 1 and Individual 1’s company received approval to provide soil and fill material for the LPW project, at a certain per ton price to be paid by Individual 1 to the HCIA, authorities said.
It was part of the agreement that Individual 1 would pay Castaldo $3 per ton of fill and soil material delivered to the site for the benefit of Pica, Castaldo and Employee 1, officials said.
In Counts Four through Six of the indictment, Pica and Castaldo arranged to obtain corrupt payments from a person referred to in the indictment as Individual 3, the owner of a recycling business in Bayonne.
Pica and Castaldo agreed to obtain payments from Individual 3 to be shared among Pica, Castaldo, and Employee 1 in exchange for Pica and Employee 1 again using their authority and influence at the HCIA to ensure that Individual 3 and Individual 3’s company received approval to provide fill materials, including crushed stone, for the LPW project, at a certain per cubic yard price to be paid by Individual 3 to the HCIA, the indictment says.
It was part of the arrangement that Individual 3 would pay Castaldo $2 per cubic yard of fill and soil material delivered to the site for the benefit of Pica, Castaldo and Employee 1, officials said.
Counts One, Two, Four and Five of the indictment carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, while Counts Three and Six carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. The maximum fines for all of the violations are $250,000 or twice the gain or loss resulting from the offense.
The indictment also seeks forfeiture of $53,861 in connection with the commission of the offenses charge in the indictment.