Former Hoboken Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia has been identified as a co-conspirator in a Newark corruption case related to a councilman accused of scheming to obtain bribes.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney of New Jersey Craig Carpenito announced that West Ward Newark Councilman Joseph A. McCallum Jr., 65, was charged with one count of wire fraud for trying to solicit and obtain bribes related to Newark and their community economic development corporation – now known as “Invest Newark!”
On the same day, Malik Frederick, 60, of Newark, a participant of the scheme, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, and charging him with subscribing to a false personal federal tax return for 2017 for intentionally not reporting over $100,000 in income.
According to Frederick’s indictment, co-conspirator 2 is described as the “Executive Vice
President of the NCEDC from in or about 2016 to in or about April 2017 and Deputy Mayor for Economic Development for the City of Newark from in or about September 2017 to in or about August 2018.”
Garcia, also the chair of Hoboken Housing Authority until being voted out in August 2014, served as the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation executive vice president starting in January 2015, according to his LinkedIn page.
The New Jersey Globe was the first to name Garcia, also the executive director of the Irvington Housing Authority, as co-conspirator 2 this afternoon.
Federal prosecutors allege that Frederick participated in scheme to pay bribes and kickbacks “for the benefit of Co-Conspirator 1 and Co-Conspirator 2, in exchange for their official actions and assistance and the violation of their duties in the affairs of the City of Newark and the NCEDC as specific opportunities arose.”
Furthermore, the indictment says that “defendant Frederick obtained payments (including payments to cover expenses for foreign travel) from the particular developer, company representative, or other, which Frederick planned to share and did share with Co-Conspirator 1, and on certain occasions, Co-Conspirator 2.”
On one specific incident on April 24th, 2017, Frederick allegedly met with an employee of Modular Home Company at a restaurant in Newark at the advice of co-conspirator 2.
At the meeting, Frederick is accused of emphasizing his clout with Newark officials and offered to be a consultant with Modular Home Company for $250,000, eventually lowering his fee to $40,000 and claiming that co-conspirator 2 “basically worked for [him].”
Furthermore, the indictment says that Frederick obtained payments from developers and share them with co-conspirators 1 and 2, who solicited the bribes to provide assistance with developers who were willing to use International Association of Business Consultants, Inc. – the firm where Frederick was the president and CEO.
Invest Newark President and CEO Bernel Hall indicated that McCallum has been removed from the board and that the agency is fully cooperating with the investigation.
“In light of the allegations, Mr. McCallum has been removed as a member of the Board of Directors and we are prepared to fully cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey on their investigation. To be clear, Mr. McCallum did not have direct roles in the day-to-day operations and the allegations do not involve any present employee or board member of Invest Newark,” Hall explained.
“Since our relaunch as Invest Newark in 2019, we have strengthened our policies and procedures to prevent conflicts of interest and protect against fraud. From overseeing a COVID-19 small business grant program, piloting a Section 8 Homeownership Conversion program, launching Newark’s first cooperatively owned company, and more, we take great pride in the future of Newark and we are committed to transparency and accountability.”
The ex-HHA director and his former employer filed dueling lawsuits regarding his termination two years after his firing in 2016 and netted a $700,000 settlement about a year-and-half later.
In 2013, Garcia ran for the assembly seat in the 33rd Legislative District and cruised to election with the support of the Hudson County Democratic Organization, but he didn’t seek re-election in 2015 after the HCDO decided he wouldn’t get to run on the party line.
Garcia did not return an inquiry seeking comment on Saturday.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a comment from Invest Newark President and CEO Bernel Hall.