Vas faces more state charges

A day after the feds dropped charges on him to add to already existing state charges, the state Attorney General’s Office today filed more corruption charges against former Perth Amboy Mayor Joe Vas.

In a release, Attorney General Anne Milgram said the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice obtained an indictment charging Vas with conspiring as mayor of Perth Amboy to “obtain illicit gifts and payments from city vendors, and laundering money into his congressional campaign through straw donors. The Attorney General’s Office previously indicted Vas in March for allegedly stealing city funds as mayor.”

The 54-year old Vas was charged in a 19-count state grand jury indictment along with his longtime aide Melvin Ramos, 53, two corporations that were city vendors, and two owners of one of the corporations.

A former assemblyman, Vas faces multiple second-degree counts of conspiracy and official misconduct, among other charges. The charges stem from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.

“Time after time, Vas exploited the trust placed in him as mayor for his illicit gain, stealing from his city,” said Milgram. “This indictment details a variety of corrupt schemes, but a common thread of arrogance and greed runs through all of them. We will not tolerate public officials who view tax dollars as the spoils of their ascent to power.”

The new indictment charges Vas with four criminal schemes (taken directly from the press release):

Free Home Improvements

"Between May and November 2002, Vas allegedly had city vendor Jenicar Builders Contractors Co., Inc., which is based in Newark and Kearny, perform approximately $25,000 in work at his home in the city, free of charge, including constructing paver walkways, a paver driveway, a paver patio, a concrete foundation for a shed, brick columns, a cement sidewalk, and a cut-stone window border.

"Vas and Jenicar face second-degree charges of conspiracy and official misconduct in connection with those home improvements.

Catering Bill

"Between April and September 2008, Vas and Ramos allegedly conspired with city vendor Imperial Construction Group, Inc., which is based in Pine Brook, and two of its owners – Frank Dominguez, 45, of Chester, who is company president, and Richard Briggs, 48, of Long Valley, who is vice president – to have the company pay a $58,006 catering bill for a ribbon cutting ceremony at the new Perth Amboy Public Safety-Court-Community Complex on April 19, 2008.

"Vas and Ramos allegedly had Dominguez and Briggs add the cost of the catering to invoices Imperial Construction submitted to the city under its contract to provide project management services for the construction of the new complex. Vas and Ramos allegedly approved the invoices, concealing the city’s payment for the catering services, which were not bid and authorized in compliance with state law on local contracts.

"Vas, Ramos, Imperial Construction, Dominguez and Briggs were each charged with conspiracy (2nd degree), official misconduct (2nd degree), theft by deception (3rd degree), false government contract payment claims (2nd degree), false representations for a government contract (2nd degree), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), falsifying or tampering with records (4th degree), and misapplication of entrusted property and property of government (3rd degree).

"In addition, Vas and Ramos are charged with pattern of official misconduct (2nd degree), and Dominguez and Briggs are charged with misconduct by a corporate official (3rd degree).

Fraudulent Campaign Contributions

"Between January and July 2006, Vas and Ramos allegedly solicited city employees and others to make fraudulent contributions to Vas’ 2006 campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives for the 13th Congressional District. Ramos allegedly paid cash to the people he solicited to reimburse them for writing personal checks payable to 'Vas for Congress.'

"Vas and Ramos are charged with money laundering because by structuring funds into the campaign through people who falsely appeared to be making personal contributions, they allegedly sought to avoid applicable state and federal currency transaction reporting requirements in connection with deposits into the campaign’s account at Commerce Bank. Banks are required to report cash deposits of $10,000 or more under federal reporting requirements.

"Vas and Ramos are each charged with second-degree conspiracy and third-degree money laundering. They are also charged with second-degree official misconduct for the scheme. They allegedly requested city employees to solicit contributions during work hours, solicited city employees and others during work hours, and used city facilities and property for campaign activities.

Medical and Eyecare Bills

"Between November 2004 and July 2005, Vas allegedly stole $5,926 from the city by unlawfully authorizing the submission to the city and approval of payment of a personal medical bill for $5,322 he received from the Mayo Clinic of Jacksonville, Fla., and a personal eyeglasses bill for $604 he received from Lenscrafters.

"Vas is charged with official misconduct (2nd degree), theft by unlawful taking (3rd degree), and misapplication of entrusted property and property of government (3rd degree)." Vas faces more state charges