A North Bergen-based business owner pleaded guilty last week to having town Department of Public Works employees perform tasks for his private deli and meat distributing operation while they were on the clock in North Bergen.
Joseph Lorenzo, 78, of West New York was indicted for the offense back in October. According to a press release from the Attorney General’s office, he was indicted for third-degree theft by unlawful taking, second-degree conspiracy, and second-degree official misconduct. According to state Attorney General’s Office spokesman Peter Aseltine, last week Lorenzo pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by unlawful taking.
According to statements in the media from North Bergen Spokesman Phil Swibinski, Lorenzo did not work for the township. He is the brother-in-law of North Bergen commissioner Frank Gargiulo. Gargiulo has not been named in any investigation.
Swibinski and Aseltine did not return phone calls by press time.
Investigators say they did construction on his business with three tons of asphalt paid for by the government.
Two North Bergen DPW supervisors, Troy Bunero, 48, of North Bergen, and Francis “Frank” Longo, 49, of Ridgefield Park were sentenced in November to five years in prison following their convictions for theft and misapplication of government property. According to their indictments and press reports, they assigned the DPW employees to work on election campaigns and personal chores while they were supposedly working for the town. Bunero was also convicted of registering falsified timesheets, since he signed those documents.
Both DPW supervisors reported to DPW Superintendent James Wiley, 69. Wiley was sentenced to five to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty of conspiracy to commit official misconduct, and admitted he had municipal employees perform housecleaning, yard work, and special projects for his home.
DPW Deputy Director Timothy Grossi’s trial has been postponed numerous times. He has been charged with similar offenses after pleading not guilty in September of 2014.
As for Lorenzo, he will be sentenced May 20 before Superior Court Judge Andrew Young.
Aseltine was quoted in the media as saying that under Lorenzo’s plea agreement, the state is recommending the court to give Lorenzo probation and a $15,000 fine.
According to the indictment, from March 2011 to May 2011 DPW workers allegedly used township vehicles and equipment for five to six hours during their regular work time repairing the parking lot of Lorenzo’s former Kennedy Boulevard business with three tons of asphalt that was paid for by the government.
Within this time, they also allegedly installed a guardrail and removed a damaged gate and fence using a DPW work truck, according to the indictment.
The workers allegedly earned five hours of overtime pay to install the guardrail, the indictment states.
In the October press release regarding Lorenzo, Director of the Division of Criminal Justice Elie Honig said, “This indictment sends an important message by demonstrating that we will aggressively prosecute anyone who seeks to benefit from public corruption, whether or not they hold any public employment or official position.”
In newspaper reports, Attorney General John Hoffman said, “We’re working hard to root out this type of corruption.”