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.
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.