Former Vas driver pleads guilty to housing scheme

A man who served as a driver for former Perth Amboy Mayor Joe Vas pleaded guilty today to a scheme involving Vas to rig a public housing lottery.

Anthony S. Jones, 50, of Perth Amboy, pleaded guilty to third-degree falsifying or tampering with records.  Jones admitted that he falsified financial information that he submitted to qualify for an affordable two-family home on Market Street in Perth Amboy through the Perth Amboy Home Program.  Previously, Vas admitted that he rigged the public lottery for the home so that Jones won the opportunity to buy it.  Jones was originally indicted with Vas on March 11, 2009.

Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Jones be sentenced to a term of probation.  He must forfeit the home, which the city will sell to another HUD-qualified buyer, and he must pay back the rent he collected by leasing one unit of the duplex home.  He also must pay $2,000 to Perth Amboy for attorneys’ fees and closing costs the city incurred in selling him the home.  He must forfeit his job with the City of Perth Amboy and will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.

“We now have taken guilty pleas from former Mayor Vas and all of his co-defendants in two indictments,” said Stephen Taylor, director of the Department of Criminal Justice. “These convictions are a tribute to the exemplary work of the members of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau who investigated and prosecuted these crimes.”

According to the indictment, Vas arranged for an unnamed co-conspirator to conceal a folded index card bearing Jones’ name and pretend to randomly draw it as the winner from among 40 participants.  As a result, Jones was able to purchase the low-income housing, which was made available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development New Construction First Time Home Buyers Program.  Jones paid $129,800 for the home and received $2,000 in subsidized closing costs from the city.

In November, Vas pleaded guilty to corruption charges, including charges of rigging the lottery. Vas also pleaded guilty to accepting an illegal payment of $58,000 from a city vendor, and illegally funneling money into his congressional campaign from straw donors in order to evade campaign finance rules. 

Aide Melvin Ramos also pleaded guilty to corruption charges in connection with the $58,000 payment and campaign finance scheme.  In April,  Vas was sentenced to eight years in prison, including five years of parole ineligibility, and Ramos was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Former Vas driver pleads guilty to housing scheme