Broker pleads guilty to making illegal campaign contributions to Menendez campaign

A Bergen County insurance broker admitted today to failing to pay more than $2 million in personal income taxes and

A Bergen County insurance broker admitted today to failing to pay more than $2 million in personal income taxes and using straw donors to make almost $100,000 in illegal contributions to the federal campaign committee of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.                

Joseph Bigica, 46, of Franklin Lakes, pleaded guilty to an Information charging him with one count of corruptly interfering with the due administration of the internal revenue laws and one count of conspiring to violate the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA). 

Bigica entered his guilty plea before U.S. District Judge Faith S. Hochberg in Newark federal court.

“Today, Joseph Bigica admitted he cheated the United States of millions in taxes by intentionally skirting campaign finance laws,” said Fishman. “By putting assets and political contributions in the names of others, Bigica spent millions on a luxury lifestyle and illegally funneled nearly $100,000 to a federal campaign while claiming he didn’t have the money to pay his taxes. By deceiving two government agencies at once, he sought to illegally influence a national election while shirking his responsibilities as a taxpayer.”

“The criminal activities of Joseph Bigica epitomize problems which are notorious in New Jersey,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward. “By engaging in this illegal campaign finance scheme, he sought to illegally influence the election while feathering his own nest along the way via the hiding of assets and avoidance of taxes. Such activities pervert the political process and increase the burden on honest taxpayers.”

Bigica admitted that between April 2005 and May 2009, he conspired with others to make approximately $98,600 in illegal contributions to the campaign committee of a federal candidate. To make the contributions, Bigica used 19 straw donors – including family members, business associates and others – whom Bigica then reimbursed for their contributions using checks drawn on accounts in the name of his spouse or companies he controlled. No one associated with the campaign has been accused of any wrongdoing.

“As a victim of the accused, the Menendez campaign has assisted authorities in pursuit of this case, and now that charges have been filed and a plea entered, Senator Menendez deems it appropriate to take contributions from the accused and donate them to two causes he holds dear: the Alzheimers Association (Greater New Jersey Chapter) and Autism Speaks,” said Menendez campaign manager Michael Soliman.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made during Bigica’s guilty plea proceeding:

From January 2000 to September 2011, Bigica was employed as an insurance broker through his companies Joseph Bigica Inc. and Joseph Bigica LLC. Bigica admitted that during that time, he failed to file timely tax returns for calendar years 1999 through 2006 or pay his taxes when they were due.

In July 2007, the IRS notified Bigica that there was no record of his tax returns for calendar years 2003 and 2004. After receiving the notice, Bigica filed tax returns in 2008 for calendar years 1999 through 2006 showing that he had gross income totaling approximately $5,801,888 on which $1,488,020 in taxes were due. After also filing for tax years 2007 and 2008, for an additional $1,727,866 in income on which $507,166 was due, Bigica claimed to the IRS in 2009 that he was unable to pay the total outstanding tax liability.

Bigica admitted that from April 2000 to September 2011, he took steps to conceal his income and assets from the IRS, including by using bank accounts in the names of companies he controlled and in the name of his spouse; using a credit card in the name of an employee and her husband; and making extensive use of a Jersey City check cashing business. The check casher handled approximately 241 checks totaling more than $2.5 million payable to Bigica, companies with which he was affiliated and others. While claiming he was unable to pay his tax obligations, Bigica spent substantial amounts of money on personal expenses such as Lamborghini and Ferrari automobiles; pool service; vacations; a residence at a club in St. Thomas; and unlawful contributions to a federal campaign committee.

The tax charge to which Bigica pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The FECA violation conspiracy charge carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of his guilty plea, Bigica agreed to pay $2,141,836 in restitution to the IRS. Sentencing is currently scheduled for Sept. 19, 2012. Broker pleads guilty to making illegal campaign contributions to Menendez campaign