A former Jersey City police officer has admitted accepting $230,000 in corrupt payments, specifically receiving cash from employers involved in requesting cops for off-duty details, U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman announced.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Juan Romaniello, 54, of East Hanover, pleaded guilty today before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez in Newark federal court to an information charging him with conspiracy to commit fraud and accept corrupt payments, as well as filing a false tax return. He was released on $250,000 unsecured bond.
Romaniello was a police officer with the Jersey City Police Department from 1988 to 2014. From 2004 to 2014, his duties included serving as the “pick coordinator” for Jersey City’s North District. In that role, it was his job to assign police officers to off-duty details, officials said.
Under Jersey City’s Municipal Code, police officers could perform off-duty assignments only when the police officer was not on duty. The code mandated that Jersey City control the hiring and compensation process through which employers hired off-duty police officers, authorities said.
However, off-duty police officers are not permitted to receive cash payments from the employer, nor can they accept checks or money orders made payable directly to them.
The employers are supposed to pay Jersey City, which pays the off-duty police officer after withholding certain fees, taxes and deductions, including an administrative fee payable to the city.
According to the criminal complaint, Romaniello agreed with numerous employers to cut Jersey City out of the process to hire and pay off-duty police officers.
He allegedly permitted employers to operate at work sites without the presence of a police officer when it was required by law for public safety reasons, such as ensuring that obstructions at construction sites did not pose a danger to vehicular or pedestrian traffic.
In certain instances, Romaniello is accused of providing the public safety services, but did not notify Jersey City.
On most occasions, Romaniello allegedly collected payments in cash, money orders and checks payable to him, directly from the employers, depriving Jersey City of money that it would have received otherwise and avoiding reporting requirements to Jersey City and the IRS. The JCPD is cooperating in the investigation.
Under terms of the plea agreement, Romaniello will forfeit approximately $297,000, a substantial part the monies that he obtained through this corrupt and fraudulent activity and which he kept at his residence.
Additionally, for tax years 2009 to 2013, Romaniello did not report $201,340 of illegally obtained money to the IRS. The plea agreement requires him to pay the IRS approximately $90,000 in restitution for unpaid taxes.
The count of conspiracy to commit fraud and accept corrupt payments carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison, while the tax fraud count carries a maximum of three years in prison.
Both counts also carry a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for January 10, 2017.
Romaniello’s guilty plea comes in the midst of four Jersey City police officers awaiting a court date in a case brought forth by the Hudson County Prosecutor’s Office accusing them of getting paid for no-show jobs.