Former Hoboken Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia pleads not guilty to massive Newark bribery scheme


Former Hoboken Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia, also an ex-Newark official, pleaded not guilty to a massive Brick City bribery scheme during a virtual hearing last week.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Garcia, 45, of Hoboken, pleaded not guilty to a laundry list of charges during a November 3rd arraignment via video teleconference with U.S. District Judge Edward Kiel, according to public records.

The hearing was just 13 minutes long, beginning at 11:30 a.m. and ending at 11:43 a.m.

Last month, the U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Garcia, along with Frank Valvano Jr., 52, of Florham Park, and Irwin Sablosky, 60, of Springfield, co-owners of a New Jersey-based pawnbroker and jewelry business, were charged with: one count of conspiracy to defraud the city of Newark and the NCEDC of Garcia’s honest services facilitated by the use of interstate wire transmissions; 17 counts of honest services wire fraud; and four counts of use of interstate facilities to promote and facilitate bribery in violation of the Travel Act.

Garcia is additionally charged with three counts of receiving bribes in connection with the business of a federally funded local government and organization and Valvano and Sablosky are additionally charged with three counts of offering those bribes, as HCV first reported.

The indictment came nearly a year after the three men were charged by criminal complaint with one count of conspiracy to commit bribery in connection with the business and transactions of a federally funded local government and organization.

Specifically, the former Hoboken Housing Authority executive director is now accused of accepting high-end watches and jewelry from Valvano and Sablosky’s business in exchange for using his official position and influence to advance real estate developments.

Federal prosecutors have preserved text message and phone records related to the case, which they say implicate the three men in the various aforementioned crimes.

For example, in June 2018, Garcia, then the city’s acting deputy mayor and director of the Department of Economic and Housing Development (DEHD), allegedly received an envelope containing $25,000 in cash, supplied by Valvano through an intermediary, in the restroom of a New Jersey restaurant.

Garcia is being represented by Timothy R. Smith, of the Fairfield-based law firm Caruso Smith Picini, P.C., while the government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey J. Manis, Elaine K. Lou, and Jihee G. Suh of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Division.

The honest services fraud conspiracy and honest services wire fraud charges each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison, while The Travel Act charges each carry a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison.

Additionally, the bribery concerning governments receiving federal funds charges each carry 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.

The indictment also seeks forfeiture of ill-gotten gains obtained from the bribery scheme.

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    • Entering a guilty plea is prelude to making a plea deal with prosecutors for a lighter sentence and/or to downgrade charges, even immunity. It is a chance for a more favorable outcome for the Defendant.

      Entering not guilty sends the case to trial. Prosecutors may offer a deal close to trial to avoid the time and expense of a jury trial. Then again, they may not.

      • I disagree, Mrs. Opposite. A guilty plea is a conviction. Charges can’t be downgraded after a guilty plea. All that’s left of the process is sentencing and the judge makes that decision not the prosecutor, subject to the federal sentencing guidelines.

        If Mr. Garcia has been unable to secure a cooperation agreement so far, and still hopes to gain a benefit from cooperation, pleading not guilty was his only means of keeping that door open.

        However, he has almost certainly been attempting to do that for the past year. The indictment is an indication that he has failed to proffer anything of sufficient value, either because he has chosen not to do so or because he has nothing to offer.

        The smart money is on the latter. But Mr. Garcia may believe that even if he can’t talk his way out of this with the feds, he might be more successful with a jury. After all, he only has to persuade one juror that he is a victim of a racist prosecutor, and he’s a pretty accomplished persuader. If he wasn’t really good at persuading people of things that weren’t true he wouldn’t have held positions of public trust in the first place.

    • I would opine that Mr Garcia could, would and may have already offered the Prosecutors in actionable information on his associates for a reduced sentence. A preliminary not guilty plea could be delaying tactic while a deal is hammered out.

      Anyone who allegedly is being given large sums of cash and expensive jewelry in a public men’s room may have very interesting tales to tell.

  1. Receiving $25k in cash in the privy won’t be subject to interpretation, no “it all depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is” and that garbage. And no Louis Zayas around to change the subject to discrimination. 10 and 20 year max penalties are pretty grim.

    So as said by the other commenter, time to make a deal. He will definitely have names to offer. And will have no problem throwing people under the bus to save his own hide. I’m sure there are some raw nerves in Newark. Maybe not as many in NJ Assembly/Trenton or Hoboken where some statutes of limitation would be running out. If he could throw light on the 2017 flyer, that would be interesting.

    As far as Newark goes though, pathetic. You hand authority and a title to guys like this you get burned 100% of the time. You have to be smart enough to spot them. Given his track record in Hoboken, it was inexcusable to hire him. Makes you wonder what other riff-raff you have on staff. Or at least you should be wondering. I don’t know how low your bond rating is, but it deserves to drop a notch with this kind of reckless hiring.

    • Why would FBI want to see a light cast on the 2017 Ravi Terror Flier? That’s not good for Ravi and his team. If it was, Hoboken would have seen an investigation like the one in Edison, NJ. Even though the Hoboken City Council requested an investigation, there’s NO INVESTIGATION.

      Is it because the results would be the same as in Edison, that it was an inside job? Many people in Hoboken know, many people. Carmelo may know but he’s not near the center of it.

      • I doubt the FBI cares about it much at this point. Hoboken always thinks it’s the center of the universe, but the universe doesn’t agree. Still it would be interesting if Garcia coughed up a name.

          • Don’t know what point you are making. Bhalla isn’t indicted. You want to sound like you know everything but you never say anything. It’s not a good combination.

          • OK, time out: why would Ravi “surrender any name for Carmello”? That doesn’t even make any sense, do you even listen to yourself anymore?

  2. Former NJ Assemblyman Mister Carmelo is a community leader, highly respected in Hoboken and the future of HUD and the Democrat Party. If the evil federal prosecutor Sluggo would leave Mister Carmelo alone and do their real job breaking into the homes of journalists and racist mommies complaining about CRT hate in schools, we’d all be better off.

    Let’s get Bit Mazon on the phone and organize another protest at Hoboken City Hall and get behind Mister Carmelo.

    • i don’t know who is supposed to decipher that mess. in any case, he endorsed chris christie in 2013. some democrat. he loves power and influence rather than any fixed set of principles.

  3. Does anyone see a pattern here? Russo, Campos, Correa, Cammarano, Raia and now Garcia. All political opponents of the Zimmer/Bhalla regime and all victims of Law Enforcement and the Deep State.

    Who will be the next victim? The brave Citizen who keeps reminding us to Never Forget the Terror Flyer better hire a good lawyer and fast. Fortunately I hear that a brilliant and courageous lawyer who risked everything bravely infiltrating the Zimmer/Bhalla machine back in 2011 may be available.

    • Raia helped start Dawn’s political career. He even took credit for her getting the council seat. You’re not good at this Ravi political operative biz. Try something else.

      • One of Zimmer’s most ardent promoters was hoboken horse. He gave her heavy support in her 2009 run and more so in 2013. Here’s a taste.

        Connecting Zimmer to the founding fathers.

        Loathing for Raia as a Zimmer enemy.


        Envisioning paradise with a Zimmer win.

        2013 mind you. 6 years after Raia supported Zimmer in 2007. Apparently hoboken horse forgot all about 2007 and understood it to be a moment in time. Because those 2013 articles are nothing if not breathless in their support.

        In fact that’s the common denominator between then and now. More than anything hoboken horse enjoys being breathless. All geeked up and melodramatic.

        In order to get that breathlessness back, he has to use Bhalla as a stand-in for Cammarano. He has to pretend he never supported Zimmer long years after she accepted Raia’s help. He’ll probably not even mention that she attended his trial on his behalf.

        That all gets in the way of the breathlessness. And the breathlessness is all that matters to him. Not facts, including the facts of his own story. Haters gonna hate. But more importantly in this case, drama queens gonna drama queen.

        You’re not good at this revisionist history biz. Try something else.

    • I’m in the clear. New management in Newark and all so no worries anymore about election irregularities in 2015! I win again and Ravi loves me. We made a deal! I’m gonna be da mayor.

  4. Oh, please. Spare me the Saint Dawn BS. She got elected with the full support of Raia’s absentee ballot operation, and Russo rolled over for her too. Once she had amassed enough money of her own, she was out, never to be heard of again. Ravi was left to clean up the financial mess she left behind.

    • I read through all the comments here twice and for the life of me I can’t figure out where the “st. dawn BS” reference “Resident” makes is drawn from other than perhaps the little demons swirling through her head. The comments here are all about Mr. Garcia’s indictment or others in Hoboken’s political realm who committed crimes. Not a single post praising Mayor Zimmer in any way.

      Likewise with the nonsense about Zimmer “amassing money” as Mayor and the fictional financial mess she “left behind” unless you consider earning a salary “amassing money” and a AA+ bond rating with a $20 million surplus a “financial mess.”

      Facts are stubborn things, but perhaps unimportant to the little demons that rule “Resident’s” mind.