Trenton Mayor Convicted on Federal Extortion, Bribery, and Mail and Wire Fraud Charges
Mayor’s Brother also Convicted in Connection with Extortion Plot
|U.S. Attorney’s Office February 07, 2014|
TRENTON—A federal jury today found Trenton Mayor Tony F. Mack guilty on all six federal extortion, bribery, and mail and wire fraud charges against him, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Mack’s brother, Ralphiel Mack, was also convicted on three of the charges but found not guilty on three mail and wire fraud counts, following a five-week trial before U.S. District Judge Michael A. Shipp in Trenton federal court. The Macks were charged in connection with a scheme to accept $119,000 in bribes in exchange for Mayor Mack’s official actions and influence in assisting cooperating witnesses in the development of an automated parking garage on city-owned land.
“The jury’s verdict solidly affirms what we first charged more than a year ago—that Tony Mack, with the helping hands of his brother and their cohorts, sold the mayor’s office and sold out the people of Trenton,” U.S. Attorney Fishman said. “We are very grateful to the members of the jury for their service.”
Tony F. Mack, 48, and Ralphiel Mack, 41, both of Trenton, originally were charged by complaint on September 10, 2012, with one count of conspiracy to obstruct commerce by extortion under color of official right related to the $119,000 extortion scheme. Also charged at that time was Joseph A. Giorgianni, 64, of Ewing, New Jersey. An indictment returned in December 2012 added charges against all three defendants.
Giorgianni pleaded guilty on December 13, 2013, to one count of conspiring with the Macks and others to obstruct interstate commerce by extorting individuals under color of official right, in addition to a separate extortion scheme, a narcotics charge, and illegal weapons possession, all charges unrelated to the Macks.
Mayor Mack was convicted of the six counts charged in the indictment:
- Conspiracy to obstruct and affect interstate commerce by extorition under color of official right
- Attempted obstruction of commerce by extortion under the color of official right
- Accepting and agreeing to accept bribes
- Two counts of wire fraud
- Mail fraud
Ralphiel Mack was convicted on the same first three counts and found not guilty of the mail and wire fraud charges. The jury members deliberated for seven hours before returning their verdicts.
According to documents filed in this case and the evidence presented at trial:
Mayor Mack, Giorgianni, and Ralphiel Mack conspired to accept approximately $119,000 in cash and other valuables, of which $54,000 was accepted and another $65,000 that the defendants planned to accept, from two cooperating witnesses (CW-1 and CW-2). In exchange for the payments, Mayor Mack agreed to and did assist CW-1 and CW-2 in their efforts to acquire a city-owned lot (the East State Street lot) to develop an automated parking garage (the parking garage project). The scheme included a plan to divert $100,000 of the purchase amount that CW-2 had indicated a willingness to pay to the city of Trenton for the lot as a bribe and kickback payment to Giorgianni and Mayor Mack. The mayor authorized and directed a Trenton official responsible for disposition of city-owned land to offer the East State Street lot to CW-2 for $100,000, significantly less than the amount originally proposed by CW-2.
The defendants went to great lengths to conceal their corrupt activity and keep Mayor Mack “safe” from law enforcement. For example, Giorgianni and Ralphiel Mack acted as intermediaries, or “buffers,” who accepted cash payments for Mayor Mack’s benefit. Mayor Mack also used another city of Trenton employee involved in the scheme, Charles Hall, III, 49, of Trenton, to contact other Trenton officials to facilitate the parking garage project and to inform the mayor when Giorgianni had received corrupt cash payments. Hall pleaded guilty before Judge Shipp in February 2013 to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to obstruct commerce by extortion under color of official right and one count of conspiring to distribute narcotics with others, including Giorgianni.
To conceal the corrupt arrangement, the defendants avoided discussing matters related to the scheme over the telephone. When those matters were discussed, they used code words and aliases. One such code word was “Uncle Remus,” which both Giorgianni and Hall regularly used to communicate to Mayor Mack that a corrupt payment had been received. For example, on October 29, 2011, Giorgianni telephoned Hall and informed him that Giorgianni had to “see” Mayor Mack and that “I got Uncle Remus for him,” meaning a corrupt cash payment that Giorgianni had received from CW-1 two days earlier. Giorgianni directed Hall to bring Mayor Mack to a meeting location controlled by Giorgianni (Giorgianni’s Clubhouse), stating “we gotta talk” because “I got something that might be good for him” and that “they’ve already come with Uncle Remus,” meaning a corrupt cash payment. On June 13, 2012, Giorgianni telephoned Mayor Mack and informed him that “Uncle Remus,” meaning a corrupt cash payment, “was there.” Mayor Mack replied, “I’ll call you, J. Okay?” In text messages to Mayor Mack related to the scheme, Giorgianni would refer to himself as “Mr. Baker.”
The defendants also concealed their activities by holding meetings concerning the corrupt activity away from Trenton City Hall, including at Giorgianni’s residence, an eatery maintained by Giorgianni known as JoJo’s Steakhouse, Giorgianni’s Clubhouse, and Atlantic City restaurants. At one Atlantic City meeting among Mayor Mack, Giorgianni, Hall, and CW-2, Mayor Mack instructed Giorgianni to ensure that no photographs were taken in order to conceal the corrupt arrangement.
The extortion conspiracy and attempted extortion charges are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. The bribery charge is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison. The mail and wire fraud charges are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. All the counts also carry a potential fine of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for May 14, 2014
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI’s Trenton Resident Agency, Newark Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford, for the investigation leading to the charge.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eric W. Moran and Matthew J. Skahill of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Trenton and Camden, respectively.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.