A former Newark Housing Authority official has admitted to 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, 56, of Jersey City, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Brian Martinotti in Newark federal court yesterday to an information charging him with committing theft from an agency receiving federal funds.
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 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, he posed as the owner of the devices and sold them to two different online electronics resale marketplaces.
Diaz then 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.
The count of theft from an agency receiving federal funds carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a maximum potential fine of $250,000 or twice the gross amount of pecuniary gain that any person derived from the offense, whichever is greater.
His sentencing is scheduled for August 4th.
Diaz is the third Newark official charged with criminal conduct over the past six months or so.
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.
He has since pleaded not guilty and had a continuance through June 1st ordered last week, court documents show.
Additionally, about two weeks ago, Newark Councilman Joseph McCullum, also a NCEDC board member, pleaded guilty to scheming to obtain bribes and kickbacks and subscribing to a false personal tax return for 2018.