A former electrical code inspector for Lakewood Township ate an indictment today for allegedly accepting bribes from contractors in exchange for preferential treatment in the form of scheduling and conducting inspections more quickly or, in at least one instance, approving work that was not actually inspected, according to Acting Attorney General Chris Porrino.
The Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau obtained a state grand jury indictment today charging Mitchell B. Perkins, 67, of Stafford Township with one count of bribery (2nd degree), two counts of official misconduct (2nd degree), two counts of acceptance or receipt of an unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior (2nd degree), and one count of pattern of official misconduct (2nd degree). The indictment is the result of an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau South Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
Perkins formerly was employed as an electrical sub-code official/electrical inspector for Lakewood Township. He was arrested in this case on Sept. 25, 2015, and subsequently retired from that position.
The investigation began after the New Jersey State Police received information that Perkins allegedly had been accepting bribes from contractors. It is alleged that, between May 1, 2015 and Sept. 30, 2015, Perkins accepted four separate payments of $300 from an electrical contractor as consideration for preferential treatment. The contractor was working as a cooperating witness for the State Police at the time and requested that Perkins inspect his work more quickly. Perkins returned the first payment, but he allegedly kept the three later payments. It is alleged that, after the first payment, Perkins, who previously had inordinately delayed inspections of the contractor’s works sites, began to conduct timely inspections of his work sites. On one occasion, Perkins allegedly approved electrical work performed by the contractor without first inspecting the work. Afterwards, Perkins allegedly accepted the fourth $300 payment.
In connection with those four alleged payments, Perkins is charged with bribery, official misconduct, and acceptance or receipt of an unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior. He is charged with a second count of official misconduct and a second count of acceptance or receipt of an unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior based on multiple instances dating back to 1997 when he allegedly accepted other payments from contractors to influence the performance of his work as an electrical sub-code official and inspector for Lakewood Township. The charge of pattern of official misconduct relates to that conduct as well as the conduct involving the cooperating witness in 2015.
“Government inspectors are supposed to safeguard the public from improper work and potential fire hazards, not line their own pockets,” said Porrino. “When inspectors like Perkins allegedly take bribes, large or small, from contractors for preferential treatment, trust in government is undermined and public safety can be compromised.”
“Bribes, at any level of government, undermine public confidence in government,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to aggressively prosecute any officials who corruptly use their public positions for personal gain.”
“There are few assets more valuable than a person’s home, and homeowners have a right to expect that government inspectors will focus exclusively on ensuring that homes are safe, not on satisfying contractors who pay bribes,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The arrest and indictment of Perkins will send a message that the state will not tolerate any illegal behavior that could endanger its citizens.”
Deputy Attorney General Pearl Minato presented the case to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Acting Attorney General Porrino commended the detectives who conducted the investigation for the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau South Unit.
Each of the charges in the indictment carries a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, including a mandatory five-year period of parole ineligibility, and a fine of up to $150,000.