Two New Jersey Men Admit Roles in Scheme to Extort Thousands of Dollars from Hudson County Project
NEWARK, NJ—Two men today admitted extorting thousands of dollars in corrupt payments in connection with arranging approvals to provide landfill materials for a Hudson County Improvement Authority (“HCIA”) project, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Gerard Pica, 65, of Middletown, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares to Count Four of an indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. James Castaldo, 60, of Beachwood, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before Judge Linares to Count One of the indictment charging him with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.
According to the documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The HCIA was overseeing the construction of a nine-hole public golf course located at Lincoln Park West in Jersey City, New Jersey (the “LPW project”). As part of its construction, the LPW project required several hundred thousand cubic yards of soil, fill material and crushed stone to be incorporated into the site, as well as to serve as road bedding during the construction of the golf course. As the overseer of the LPW project, one of the functions of the HCIA—either directly or through a designated contractor—was to serve as a gatekeeper for any material to be delivered to the LPW site. It was the HCIA’s responsibility to solicit, evaluate and decide which contractors’ proposals to accept for the provision of soil and fill material for the LPW project.
Castaldo ran Renda Enterprises LLC, which provided interstate transportation and broker services that moved or received recycled waste and other materials. Pica had been employed by the HCIA as an environmental scientist and had the ability to influence the HCIA’s decisions regarding the selection of contractors to provide soil and fill material to the LPW project. An individual referred to in the indictment as “Employee 1” also had authority over the selection of contractors seeking to provide materials for the project site.
From August 2010 through November 2011, Pica, Castaldo and others schemed to obtain payments from certain contractors in exchange for Pica and Employee 1’s assistance in getting approval for certain companies to provide materials for the LPW project.
Pica admitted that he arranged to obtain corrupt payments from “Individual 3,” the owner of a recycling business in Bayonne, New Jersey. Pica admitted using his authority at the HCIA to ensure that Individual 3 and Individual 3’s company received approval to provide Class B materials, including crushed stone, for the LPW project. As part of the agreement, Individual 3 would pay Castaldo a fee—$2 per cubic yard of fill and soil material delivered to the site—for the benefit of Pica, Castaldo and Employee 1. Pica admitted receiving approximately $6,600 in December 2010 as a partial payment of his share. In addition, Pica admitted to creating a fraudulent invoice from a separate company which he owned for monies purportedly owed to him by Renda Enterprises. Pica admitted that he accepted a check for $6,000 from Renda Enterprises in April 2011, knowing that this amount was further payment of his share which he extorted from Individual 3.
Castaldo admitted that in early 2011, he met with Pica and a person referred to in the indictment as “Individual 1,” who was the owner of a full service environmental consulting firm seeking authorization to dump soil and fill material at the LPW site. Castaldo admitted that he, Pica and Individual 1 agreed upon the amount per cubic yard that Individual 1 would have to pay in return for Pica’s assistance in ensuring Individual 1 would receive authorization to dump the material at the LPW site. Castaldo acknowledged that in July 2011, Renda Enterprises received two payments totaling more than $8,600 as corrupt payments for allowing Individual 1 to dump more than 2,600 cubic yards of fill materials at the LPW site.
The counts to which Pica and Castaldo pleaded guilty both carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense. Pica and Castaldo are also jointly responsible for forfeiture of $53,861. Sentencing for both defendants is scheduled for Feb. 23, 2016.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents from the FBI, under direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel in Newark and special agents with the N.J. State Commission of Investigation, under the direction of Acting Executive Director Lee C. Seglem, for the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys David L. Foster and Mark McCarren of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
Defense counsel: Pica: Edward Plaza, Esq., Newark Castaldo: Matthew J. Heagen, Toms River