NEWARK – The Economic Development Authority on Tuesday approved a $335,435 storage tank removal grant for a company whose owner was convicted of federal gambling charges in Florida.
The company, County Oil Corp. of Mahwah, applied for a conditional hardship grant under the Petroleum Underground Storage Tank program, to help remove seven leaking underground storage tanks at a site on Route 17 South in Mahwah.
EDA documents state the owner of the company, Joseph Minuto, had committed “several potentially disqualifying acts.” Specifically, Minuto ran an illegal bookmaking operation in Florida in 1996, and later served prison time and probation, documents show.
In March, he pleaded guilty to knowingly advancing or profiting from an unlawful gambling activity. The offense took place on March 23, 2010. Such an offense is considered a misdemeanor and could carry one year of jail time. However, Minuto paid a $205 surcharge and forfeited a Chevy Suburban.
EDA officials said they took Minuto’s past criminal activity into consideration and in the end decided to award the grant because it is for the greater public good and there exists “an imminent threat to Mahwah’s well fields.”
“The gambling convictions were against Mr. Minuto and not against the applicant corporation,” the EDA’s Integrity Review states.
“Mr. Minuto’s personal activities are separate from those of County Oil, but he is the sole owner of this corporation and his integrity should be a consideration in this review.”
The EDA also said the way the storage tank removal grant program is structured, the likelihood of the funds being misappropriated is low. Also, The EDA mentioned that DEP officials known as licensed site remediation professionals will be overseeing the project and County Oil will have little incentive to “cut corners,” or “perform less than what is required under regulations.”