Man admits using $470k kickback scheme to defraud Jersey City condo complex owner


A man has admitted to using wire fraud to facilitate a $470,000 kickback scheme to defraud the owner of an unnamed Jersey City condominium complex, authorities said.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Jonathan Smith, 56, of Montclair, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Karen M. Williams in Camden to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Smith’s conspirator, Nathaniel Obedos, pleaded guilty on July 6th, 2023, before Judge Williams and is awaiting sentencing. Ranaldo Bennett, Smith’s other conspirator, was arrested and charged for the same conduct, and his case is still pending.

From November 2018 through July 2020, Smith conspired with Bennett and Obedos to engage in a kickback scheme to defraud the owner of the condominium complex. Bennett was the complex’s lead property manager and Smith was its superintendent.

Bennett and Smith steered repair and maintenance work to Obedos and his company.

They also requested and received kickbacks from Obedos, and to fund these kickbacks, Bennett and Smith falsified invoices that grossly inflated the value of Obedos’s work.

Relying on those fake invoices, the complex paid Obedos the inflated prices, and Obedos then used the excess money to pay Bennett and Smith kickbacks.

The complex paid Obedos and his company over $1 million for work that was actually valued at $500,000. Obedos used the overpayments to pay $460,000 in kickbacks to Bennett and approximately $30,000 in kickbacks to Smith.

The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. Sentencing for Smith is scheduled for June 10th.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to the today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Blake Coppotelli of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit.

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