Ex-Hoboken Assemblyman Garcia pleads guilty to 3 counts in Newark bribery scheme


Former Hoboken Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia pleaded guilty to three counts related to a Newark bribery case that first saw him charged by complaint in November 2020.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Carmelo Garcia, 49, of Hoboken, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Madeline Cox Arleo to conspiracy to defraud the city of Newark and the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation of Garcia’s honest services, honest services wire fraud, and receiving bribes in connection with the business of a federally funded local government and organization.

“As he admitted in court, Carmelo Garcia set up a scheme to receive cash and jewelry in exchange for using his influence in favor of private business interests, defrauding the people of Newark of their right to his honest services. In doing so, he violated the public trust in order to line his own pockets,” U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger said in a statement.

“Our office will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to make sure that the people of New Jersey are protected from public officials whose independent judgment is corrupted by greed.”

Garcia, who was backed by the Hudson County Democratic Organization (HCDO) before he won his one and only term in the state Assembly in 2013, received 20 continuances in the case without much explanation.

His most recent one expired on June 1st and when HCV inquired about the status of his case on June 18th, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said the case is “still on a continuance” and did not provide any further explanation.

“We entrust public officials to act in the best interest of the people they serve, not to abuse their position for their own personal gain,” added FBI – Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy said.

“Today, Carmelo Garcia admitted he violated the citizens of Newark’s trust when as deputy mayor he accepted bribes to advance and influence private real estate interests. FBI Newark will continue to see that corrupt public officials face the punishment they deserve in the criminal justice system.”

From 2017 through April 2019, while serving as a high-level Newark official, and prior to that, as an executive officer of the NCEDC (now known as Invest Newark), Garcia sought and received significant monetary payments and other benefits from Frank Valvano Jr., Irwin Sablosky – the former board of education president in Springfield.

Those two and others bribed Garcia to use his official positions and influence within the city of Newark and the NCEDC to advance real estate development matters of interest to Valvano and Sablosky.

These matters included obtaining preliminary designation letters for Valvano and Sablosky and securing Newark-approved redevelopment agreements (RDAs) that allowed them to purchase and acquire various Newark-owned properties for redevelopment, and to ensure that Garcia did not use his influence and authority to act against their interests.

In addition to cash, Garcia also received jewelry, including multiple high-end watches and chains, from Valvano and Sablosky’s pawnbroker and jewelry business.

Phone records and text messages obtained by law enforcement show extensive communication between Garcia, Valvano, Sablosky, and others throughout this period of time, including text messages in which Garcia arranged to personally collect cash provided by Valvano and Sablosky.

In one instance, in June 2018, Garcia, then the city’s acting deputy mayor and director of the city’s DEHD, received an envelope containing $25,000 in cash, supplied by Valvano through an intermediary, in the restroom of a New Jersey restaurant.

E-mails obtained by law enforcement further show the official actions, assistance, and influence Garcia provided in violation of his duties in exchange for the cash and other non-cash benefits he received from Valvano and Sablosky.

The honest services fraud conspiracy and honest services fraud charges in Counts One and Two each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. The bribery charge in Count Three carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison.

All charges are punishable by a fine of $250,000 or twice the amount of the pecuniary gain from the offense.

As part of Garcia’s guilty plea, he agreed to criminal forfeiture of the $25,000 corrupt cash payment and administrative/civil forfeiture of the jewelry that he obtained from the scheme. His sentencing is scheduled for December 12th.

Garcia was charged by indictment in October 2021 with Valvano, 56, of Florham Park, and Sablosky, 64. Valvano and Sablosky’s case is pending before Arleo and they are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI’s Newark Field Office, special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, with the investigation leading to today’s plea.

Garcia unsuccessfully challenged Hoboken 6th Ward Councilwoman Jen Giattino in 2015 rather than seeking re-election and that was his last run for office before becoming an appointed official in Newark.

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