Trenton, N.J., Mayor Tony Mack -- a.k.a. “Napoleon,” “the Little Guy” and “Honey Fitz” -- was arrested and charged with corruption Monday following a two-year federal probe into kickbacks allegedly taken by city officials in connection with a development project.
A 31-page complaint also accuses two other men -- the mayor’s brother, Ralphiel Mack, and Joseph A. Giorgianni (a.k.a. “the Fat Man,” among other monikers) -- of demanding $119,000 in payments from a man they thought was vying to build a parking garage in Trenton, the state capital.
In reality, the man was working with federal agents in a sting operation that had begun in September 2010. That’s when the man met with Giorgianni in Giorgianni’s eatery, JoJo’s Steakhouse, under the guise of representing a developer willing to pay bribes for the right to build a parking garage on city property.
“I can be bought,” Giorgianni said at one time during the recorded meeting, the complaint says. “I like money so much, I hate the poor,” he adds.
Ten days later, the two met again, this time in a clubhouse Giorgianni owned, and discussed the handover of the money, the complaint says. Half was to be paid after the purported developer met with the mayor; the rest was to be paid after the city formally gave the parking garage project to the developer, according to the complaint. “It’s all going to be green, all cash,” the agent said. “Ain’t that a beautiful color,” Giorgianni replied.
Once the cash began flowing, prosecutors say, the accused used a system of code words and nicknames to send messages to each other, including using “Uncle Remus” to refer to money received by Giorgianni for the mayor.
When FBI agents searched Giorgianni’s home in July, they found more than $9,400 in cash, most of it bills containing the same serial numbers as those paid out as bribes in the sting operation, prosecutors said. They also found empty folders that were allegedly used to deliver cash payments of $10,000 and $25,000. Prosecutors say that cash with serial numbers matching those used in the sting also was found in the home of Mack’s brother, Ralphiel, who is a high school football coach employed by the city of Trenton’s Department of Education.
Video posted on NBCNewYork.com showed the mayor being taken into custody early Monday, his hands cuffed behind his back and looking slightly disheveled in a gray suit, no tie, and his white shirt hanging out of his trousers. Neither the mayor’s office nor the mayor’s assistant returned telephone or email messages, and there was no update on the city’s website about the arrest.
In July, when federal agents first conducted raids in connection with the investigation, Mack issued a statement denying wrongdoing. “I have not violated my duties or the public trust,” he said at the time.
Mack, 46, was elected in 2010, and his administration has been in turmoil much of his time in office. He survived a recall attempt last November amid allegations from some critics that he had fired most department heads and replaced them with unqualified friends. According to local media reports, the housing director Mack chose quit after it was discovered he had been convicted of theft in the past. His chief of staff was arrested in connection with an alleged attempt to buy heroin.