It’s payback time County files suit against vendors and indicted officials

Seeking to retrieve profits from allegedly corrupt practices, Hudson County filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday to recover money from convicted officials and those vendors associated with their activities.

“This civil suit … arises directly out of the corrupt scheme started and perpetuated by former Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski,” the executive summary for the suit says. “In short, the scheme involved the award of contracts by Hudson County and by the Hudson County Improvement Authority in exchange for bribes.”

Janiszewski resigned from office in September of 2001 after having becoming an informant for the U.S. Attorney’s office in a corruption scheme. The office had caught him allegedly taking a bribe, and then asked him to wear a wire for months and snag other officials.

“From the first hour of our administration, raising the ethical bar has been a priority,” explained County Executive Tom DeGise in announcing the suit during his State of the County Address on Thursday, Jan. 26. “I am pleased to say that with the support of [the Board of Freeholders],we filed a suit in federal court calling for the financial restitution from those who profited from corruption.”

The suit names former County Executive Robert Janiszewski; Hoboken accountant Gerald Lisa and as individual and as part of Lisa Associates; Union City Psychiatrist Dr. Oscar Sandoval and his various businesses; financial consultant Charles Fallon of Fallon & Fallon; bond broker Jay Booth and his various businesses; former Freeholder Nidia Davila Colon, former Freeholder Bill Braker, and numerous other people listed only as John and Jane Doe and other unnamed corporations.

In answering questions, DeGise said the suit may uncover others and will “go where it goes.”

The suit also names Western Surety Company – which is not being named for any corrupt activity. Donato Battista, counsel for Hudson County, said the suit is seeking to collect on a bond from them on Janiszewski’s performance, since Janiszewski allegedly failed to do the job as county executive properly.

Lisa, Braker and Colon have all been convicted on corruption charges. Booth was accused by Janiszewski but was never charged. Sandoval testified to using Davila Colon to pass bribes to Janiszewski.

Barry gave settlement

Hoboken developer Joseph Barry, who was sentenced to 25 months in prison for giving Janiszewski cash “gifts,” is excluded from the suit.

Battista, county counsel, said the county received a pre-motion settlement of $75,000 from Barry, but noted that Barry was not accused of receiving county money.

According to the executive summary filed with the court, “No claims are brought against Barry for the following reasons: The contracts for which he made illegal payments were not county contracts; extensive restitution was required and made as part of the federal plea bargain; and we have reached a pre-litigation settlement with Barry for the payment of a negotiated sum of money.”

The estate of Janiszewski associate Paul Byrne, a political consultant who was said to have handled his friend’s bribes, is not being sued “because we have obtained detailed evidence that the target defendants lack any assets.” Byrne passed away in 2005 before being sentenced, and an investigation of his estate shows no finances.

What they want

The suit, Batista said, is looking for the return of the bribe money to the county, as well giving back any money acquired as a result of contracts obtained by bribery.

The county is also asking that federal racketeering statutes (commonly known as RICO) be applied which would triple the financial damages including the cost of legal fees.

“The complaint alleges that beginning not later than 1993, Janiszewski began accepting bribes and/or gratuities from other corrupt defendants, as well as from others, both directly and through conduits,” says the executive summary.

The charges claim that among the illegally procured contracts referenced in the complaint:

· Lisa and Associates was awarded over $1.6 million in professional auditing contracts through the Freeholders, between 1996 and 2001.

· Over $7 million in contracts were awarded by Hudson County, through the freeholders, between 1996 and 2001, to Dr. Sandoval and his companies.

· Booth and his companies Jersey Capital, Tri-State, Crown, M.H. Meyerson and Red Horse, were designated as an underwriter to sell bonds for various Hudson County and/or Hudson County Improvement Authority projects from 1991 through 1999.

· Fallon and his company Fallon & Fallon were awarded in excess of $250,000 in professional services contracts between 1994 and 2001 by the HCIA.


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