The former executive director of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. (NWCDC) today admitted accepting approximately $999,000 in kickback payments in exchange for her assistance in awarding work to various vendors and contractors of the agency, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Linda Watkins Brashear, 56, of West Orange, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge José Linares in Newark federal court to Counts 1 and 5 of a five-count information charging her with a wire fraud scheme to defraud the NWCDC by accepting bribes and kickback payments from contractors and an employee of the corporation, which were funded by payments from the NWCDC based on fraudulently inflated invoices or issued for work that was not performed by the contractors (Count 1), and subscribing a false tax return for the year 2012 (Count 5).
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Brashear served as the executive director for the NWCDC from 2007 to March 2013. During this time, she and others devised a scheme to defraud the NWCDC of her honest services in the affairs of the NWCDC and of the NWCDC’s money and property. The object of the scheme was for Brashear and others to accept a substantial stream of concealed and undisclosed kickbacks from NWCDC contractors and an employee of the NWCDC for her direct and indirect benefit in exchange for action and assistance in the affairs of the NWCDC, and for her violating her official duties and responsibilities.
Between 2008 and March 2013, Brashear accepted approximately $999,000, in kickbacks financed through the receipt of payments by contractors and an employee of the NWCDC that were fraudulently obtained from the NWCDC with Brashear’s assistance, through materially false pretenses, representations and promises. In particular, Brashear accepted kickbacks as summarized below:
TIME PERIOD APPROXIMATE AMOUNT OF KICKBACKS PAID BY
September 2012 – March 2013 $39,000 NWCDC “Employee 1”
January 2009 – December 2012 $260,000 James Porter (identified in Count 1 as “partner of the special projects manager”) January 2008 – June 2012 $70,000 Printing contractor
January 2011 – January 2013 $33,000 Marketing contractor
September 2012 –April 2013 $90,000 Cleaning contractor
April 2009 – February 2013 $118,000 Homeland Security contractor
January 2009 – May 2012 $40,000 Interior designer
January 2008 – March 2013 $177,000 Internet research consultant
October 2011 – March 2013 $29,000 Political consultant
April 2011 – September 2012 $32,000 Media consultant
January 2008 – March 2013 $27,000 Giacomo “Jack” DeRosa
May 2011 – March 2013 $84,000 Security consultant
According to the feds, Brashear routinely accepted payments from some of these contractors through Donald Bernard Sr. Brashear and Bernard also used their email accounts to facilitate this kickback and fraud scheme. Bernard was previously charged in December 2014 in a 20-count indictment with various federal offenses involving a scheme to defraud the NWCDC of his honest services and the NWCDC’s money and property by accepting and agreeing to accept bribes and kickbacks from certain NWCDC contractors, which were financed at least in part through the contractors’ fraudulent padding of invoices to the NWCDC.
Brashear admitted taking payments from James Porter, a contractor who pleaded guilty in January 2015 to conspiracy to defraud the NWCDC of honest services, money and property through the use of interstate wire transmissions, as well as tax evasion for his role in the kickback scheme. The roofing contractor referred to in Count 1 of the information, Giacomo “Jack” DeRosa, was charged in a six-count fraud and money laundering indictment in December 2014 for his role in passing kickbacks to Bernard, which were shared, in part, with Brashear.
Brashear also admitted making and subscribing a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040, for tax year 2012, signed and filed with the IRS under penalty of perjury, which she did not believe to be true and correct, including approximately $316,000 in unreported income that she received through the kickback payments.
The wire fraud charge to which Brashear pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. The charge of filing a false tax return carries a maximum potential penalty of three years in prison. Both charges are punishable by a fine of $250,000 or twice the amount of the pecuniary gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for April 5, 2016. U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI’s Newark Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel; IRS – Criminal Investigation, Newark Field Office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen; and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, Newark office, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi, as well as criminal investigators of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, for the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea. U.S. Attorney Fishman also thanked the N.J. Office of the State Comptroller, under the direction of Acting State Comptroller Philip James Degnan, for its assistance in the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacques Pierre, Mala Ahuja Harker and Leslie Schwartz of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division.