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Paterson Mayor Arraigned on Public Corruption Charges

 

Paterson Mayor Joey Torres and three public works supervisors pleaded not guilty to corruption charges at arraignments in a New Jersey court Monday. 

Torres pleaded not guilty to charges of theft, misconduct, tampering with public records and other offenses before a judge in New Jersey. Three public works supervisors also pleaded not guilty. 

Torres said nothing to reporters as he walked into court. 

Prosecutors revealed in court Monday they have made an offer to Torres and the four Department of Public Works employees. If Torres agrees to plead guilty to conspiracy, he would have to resign as mayor, pay restitution and serve five years parole. 

The DPW workers -- Joseph Mania, 51; Timothy Hanlon, 30; and Imad Elmowaswes, 52 -- would also be put on probation and have to pay restitution, and agree not to work in government services again, but would avoid jail time under the deal. They're each facing a minimum of years in prison if they're convicted in trial. 

Torres and the public works supervisors have until Sept. 1 to take the deals, prosecutors said. If not, the trial will begin sometime afterward. 

The mayor of New Jersey's third-largest city was the subject of months of media reporting on municipal workers being paid to do private jobs for him and his relatives. Torres and the three indicted workers all deny wrongdoing.

Torres issued a statement after he was indicted last month, saying, "I fully intend to vigorously defend myself against these allegations, and I look forward to the opportunity to present all of the facts in a court of law. I am confident when the full story is told, I will be vindicated." 

First elected to Paterson's city council in 1990, Torres became mayor in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006. The Democrat lost a bid for a third term in 2010 but re-gained his seat in 2014.

Through much of 2016, Torres refused to answer questions about a series of stories that appeared to show city employees doing private jobs for him, from washing his scooter and building bookshelves to doing construction at his nephew's would-be beer business.

When the media caught up with him before the first report in March 2016, Torres said in an email no employees had ever done private jobs for him while on overtime. "Please be advised that at no time has any city employee, on city time, or overtime, or paid with taxpayer dollars, ever performed work for me at my home, or anywhere else," he wrote.

The media later obtained records that seem to show at least eight employees had indeed been earning overtime during the same periods they were seen on camera doing private work at the mayor's home and the planned beer business. But the mayor never responded to requests for further explanation.

 

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