A former Newark Housing Authority official has been sentenced to two years in prison for embezzling $594,425, using agency funds to purchase 1,509 electronic devices and reselling them online, U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Venancio Diaz, 57, of Jersey City, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian Martinotti in Newark federal court in March to an information charging him with committing theft from an agency receiving federal funds.
Martinotti imposed today’s sentence via videoconference.
From December 2013 to August 10th, 2021, Diaz bought, on behalf of NHA and using NHA funds, 1,509 electronic devices, primarily cellular telephones and tablets, from a telecommunications company.
Diaz, at the time the Newark Housing Authority director of information technology, then caused those devices to be activated on NHA’s account on the company’s network for a short period of time – often only days or weeks.
After the brief period of activation ended, Diaz posed as the owner of the devices and sold them to two different online electronics resale marketplaces.
Diaz directed all the proceeds of the sales – a total of $594,425 – to his own bank accounts and kept the money for his own personal use.
In addition to the prison term, Martinotti sentenced Diaz to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay $594,425 in restitution to the NHA.
Diaz also previously consented to a $594,425 money judgment, forfeiting the monies he obtained as a result of his illegal scheme, and also agreed to forfeit electronic devices belonging to NHA that were seized by law enforcement or otherwise in his possession, including 27 cellular telephones.
Sellinger credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development – Office of the Inspector General and special agents of the FBI with the investigation leading to today’s sentencing.
He also thanked the IRS-Criminal Investigations for its assistance.
Diaz is the third Newark official charged with criminal conduct since late 2021.
Former Newark Community Economic Development Corporation official Carmelo Garcia, also an ex-Hoboken Assemblyman, was indicted in a large-scale Newark bribery scheme in October.
Additionally, former Newark Councilman Joseph McCullum, also a NCEDC board member, pleaded guilty in March to scheming to obtain bribes and kickbacks and subscribing to a false personal tax return for 2018.