Trenton Mayor Tony Mack was found guilty Friday of six federal corruption charges for a scheme in which he accepted cash bribes in exchange for assisting with the proposed development of an automated parking garage on city-owned land.
Mack, 48, was convicted of one count each of conspiracy to obstruct interstate commerce by extortion, attempted obstruction of commerce by extortion, accepting and agreeing to accept bribes and mail fraud, as well as two counts of wire fraud.
Mack’s brother, 41-year-old Ralphiel Mack, was convicted of the same offenses except for the mail and wire fraud charges, of which he was found not guilty.
The decision came after a five-week trial in a Trenton federal court, followed by seven hours of jury deliberations.
“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 Paul J. Fishman said in a statement.
The Macks were indicted in September 2012 after investigators found the duo, together with associate Joseph Giorgianni, conspired to accept $119,000 in cash and other valuables from two cooperating witnesses.
In exchange for the payments - $54,000 of which were accepted and another $65,000 of which the defendants planned to accept – Mack pledged to help the witnesses acquire a city-owned lot on East State Street and turn it into a parking garage.
The scheme included a plan to divert $100,000 of the lot’s purchase amount, which was slated to be paid to the city of Trenton, into bribe and kickback payments to Giorgianni and the mayor.
According to court documents, Giorgianni and Ralphiel Mack acted as buffers who accepted cash payments on the mayor’s behalf in an attempt to keep him shielded from law enforcement.
The defendants, to conceal their corruption, spoke of the scheme in code words. “Uncle Remus,” for example, was regularly used to alert the mayor that a corrupt payment had been received. ”Napoleon” or “Little man” referred to mayor Mack, while Giorgianni called himself “Mr. Baker” in text messages.
The defendants held meetings about the scheme at various Atlantic City restaurants, as well as a sandwich shop and neighboring clubhouse that were both owned by Giorgianni. At one such rendezvous in Atlantic City, Mack told Giorgianni to make sure no photographs were taken. Some of the meetings were recorded and used in the prosecution after the witnesses agreed to cooperate. Also used as evidence were numerous phone calls and text messages between the defendants.
Prosecutors said Mack further used Trenton employee Charles Hall III to contact other city officials for the purpose of pushing through the project and to let the mayor know when Giorgianni had received bribes.
Hall, 49, pleaded guilty in February 2013 to one count of conspiracy to obstruct commerce by extortion and one count of conspiring to distribute narcotics with others, including Giorgianni.
Giorgianni, 64, pleaded guilty in December 2013 to one count of conspiring with the Macks and others to obstruct interstate commerce through extortion. Giorgianni also pleaded guilty to charges involving a separate extortion scheme, narcotics and illegal weapons possession, all unrelated to the Macks.
The Macks both face a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison for each extortion and attempted extortion charge and up to 10 years in prison for each bribery charge.
Mayor Mack further faces a maximum of 20 years in prison for each mail and wire fraud count. Each offense also carries a potential fine of $250,000.
Both Tony and Ralphiel Mack are scheduled to be sentenced May 14.