Trenton Mayor Arrested in Corruption Probe

     (CN) – The mayor of Trenton, N.J., was arrested Monday as part of an FBI sting operation in which he allegedly took bribes from the purported developer of a parking garage project.
     Authorities had been investigating Trenton Mayor Tony Mack and his alleged co-conspirators since September 2010, two months after he was elected mayor.
     They set up a sting in which an FBI informant, posing as the consultant for a developer, met with one of Mack’s supporters, convicted sex offender Joseph Giorgianni. Giorgianni promised that Mack would back the project in exchange for “little envelopes” of cash, which they frequently handed off at JoJo’s Steakhouse, a restaurant owned by Giorgianni, according to federal prosecutors.
     Mack, his brother, Ralphiel Mack, and Giorgianni were accused of conspiring “to obstruct, delay and affect interstate commerce by extortion under color of official light.”
     The defendants accepted $54,000 in cash and anticipated receiving another $65,000 from the purported parking garage developer, who was also working as a cooperating witness.
     Phone recordings captured Giorgianni telling one informant, “I can be bought” and “I like to make money for my friends,” according to the criminal complaint. “You know the old saying, money makes a blind man see,” Giorgianni allegedly replied when asked if the mayor was “happy with the gift,” a reference to the bribe.
     While discussing the cash payments, Giorgianni lamented the bid to recall Mack in 2011, saying the mayor “can’t do nothing” because he was “under a microscope … it’s sickening,” prosecutors say.Though most of the recorded conversations were between Giorgianni and the informants, Mack appeared to understand Giorgianni’s code word for cash — “Uncle Remus” — in phone conversations with the steakhouse owner, according to the complaint.
     “Uncle Remus might be stopping by,” Giorgianni allegedly told Mack.
     “Um-hmm. Yeah, I want to make sure you, um, you get everything squared away,” the mayor replied, never asking for clarification about the reference to “Uncle Remus,” prosecutors say.
     Since Mack’s first day in office, his administration has been “plagued by accusations of cronyism and reckless spending,” according to The New York Times. He survived a recall election last November, and his home was raided on July 18 as part of the FBI corruption investigation.
     Prosecutors say Mack used Giorgianni and his brother, Ralphiel, as middlemen to distance himself from the cash payments. Giorgianni boasted about taking the fall for the mayor in his taped conversations with informants, according to the complaint.
     In the 1980s Giorgianni was convicted of carnally abusing and debauching the morals of a 14-year-old girl in the back of his steakhouse. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison, but was released one week into his sentence due to obesity-related health issues; he tipped the scales at 480 pounds when he checked in to the Leesburg State Prison. Following public outcry over his release, the judge reversed his decision and sent Giorgianni back to jail.
     He was released on parole in 1985.

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