A former North Bergen business owner, who is the brother-in-law of Department of Public Works Commissioner Frank Gargiulo, was indicted for allegedly having DPW workers do construction at his business while on township time.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Joseph Lorenzo, 78, of West New York, was indicted by a state grand jury on charges of second-degree conspiracy, second-degree official misconduct and third-degree theft by unlawful taking.
Lorenzo allegedly conspired with unnamed individuals to have employees of the North Bergen DPW perform construction work at the business he formerly owned on Kennedy Boulevard in North Bergen, officials said.
The front part of the business was a delicatessen and eatery, while the rear area was dedicated to the supply and distribution of meat products and included a medium-sized loading depot and parking lot to accommodate delivery trucks, authorities said.
During witness testimony at the trial of former North Bergen DPW Supervisor Francis Longo and Troy Bunero, who were ultimately found guilty on a multitude of charges including official misconduct in June.
A DPW worker testified during the trial that employees filled potholes for Yella’s deli while on township time.
Located near the intersection of John F. Kennedy Boulevard and 59th Street at the time, Yella’s was owned by Lorenzo. A NB DPW worker testified that this work was performed while on township time and that Longo ordered workers to perform it.
The latest charges, the first for a non-government employee, are the result of an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
On at least three occasions between January 2011 and May 2011, Lorenzo and his co-conspirators had work performed by employees of the North Bergen DPW at the family-owned business during regular work hours or while the DPW employees were being paid overtime by the township, officials said.
The indictment further alleges that the workers used township vehicles, equipment and materials to perform the work.
“The residents of North Bergen don’t pay property taxes so that township workers, vehicles and equipment can be used to perform favors for people who have the right connections,” Acting Attorney General Hoffman said in a statement.
“We’re working hard to root out this type of corruption.”
Specifically, is alleged that NB DPW workers performed the following tasks at the family-owned business:
On May 26, 2011, five DPW employees allegedly spent approximately five to six hours repairing the parking lot of the business. The work was performed during regular work hours, so the employees were paid by the township for this work, and it was performed with township vehicles and equipment. In addition, the crew used approximately three tons of asphalt that was purchased by the township.
On Saturday, March 19, 2011, three DPW workers allegedly spent five hours installing a guard rail on the premises of the business while being paid at the overtime rate of time and a half by the township.
Two to three weeks before the guardrail was installed, the same three DPW workers allegedly spent about four hours during their regular work day removing a damaged gate and fence at the front of the business. The gate had been damaged when it was struck by a truck that was in the parking lot of the business. A DPW truck was used to haul away the gate and fence.
Two former supervisors for the North Bergen DPW, Troy Bunero and Francis Longo, are scheduled to be sentenced on Nov. 12. Their original sentencing was set for October 19 but was postponed.
The former NB DPW Superintendent, James Wiley, has previously pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit official misconduct and testified in their trial, admitting he wore a wire at North Bergen Bruins football games and even Vainieri Funeral Home.
According to the state Attorney General’s Office, he will face a sentence of five to 10 years in prison.
Timothy Grossi, the former deputy director of the department, is awaiting trial in Bergen County Superior Court for misconduct charges similar to what Longo and Bunero faced.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
New Jersey Deputy Attorney Generals Victor Salgado and Julia Zukina, with the former saying no one would be getting “a free pass” in the ongoing investigation during his closing argument in Bunero and Longo’s trial, presented Lorenzo’s case to the state grand jury.