Jersey City Councilman Mariano Vega was slapped with an eight count indictment today for allegedly taking $30,000 in bribes from an FBI informant and making false statements to federal investigators.
Vega allegedly conspired with Maher Khalil, another Jersey City official who was arrested in July and has since pleaded guilty, to deposit three $10,000 bribes from faux real estate developer Solomon Dwek into his campaign account through a series of straw donors. In return for the money, prosecutors contend that Vega promised Dwek help with development approvals for a make believe residential high rise development project on Garfield Avenue.
Vega, was council president when he was arrested along with dozens of other Hudson County officials, politicians and consultants in July’s massive corruption sweep. He has since stepped down from the leadership post post, but maintains his innocence and remains in his council seat.
Adding a new wrinkle to the case against Vega is the false statement charge. FBI agents met with Vega on July 22 – the day before he and 43 others were shuffled off buses and frog marched into the federal court house in Newark. In the interview, Vega claimed not to recognize Dwek when agents showed him his photograph, despite having shared meals with him six times over the course of five months – including a meeting just two weeks prior.