May 20, 2014

Hudson County Contractor Arrested, Charged with Paying Bribes to Fire Official

NEWARK—The owner of a general contracting company in West New York, New Jersey, was arrested at home in North Bergen, New Jersey, this morning by special agents of the FBI and charged with bribing a fire official to eliminate more than $8 million in outstanding fines on buildings with fire code violations, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Victor Coca, 48, of North Bergen, is charged by criminal complaint with one count of paying a bribe to a local government agent. He is scheduled to appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson this afternoon in Newark federal court.

According to the complaint filed today:

Two West New York buildings—one owned by Coca and one owned by a friend of his—had outstanding fines for fire code violations. Coca’s friend’s building—called “Building 1” in the complaint—had approximately $14,500 in fines, and Coca’s building—called “Building 2” in the complaint—had approximately $8.73 million in outstanding fines and penalties.

Coca paid a West New York Bureau of Fire Prevention official—who is cooperating with the government—cash bribes to reduce or eliminate the outstanding fines, paying $2,000 to eliminate the $14,500 debt on Building one. For Building 2, Coca paid a $5,000 cash bribe to the official, making the amount due to the West New York Bureau of Fire Prevention only the initial fine amount of $5,000.

The charge carries maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine or twice the gain or loss from the offense.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford in Newark, with the ongoing investigation leading to today’s arrest.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.