Clinton Township man pleads to money laundering charges

A Clinton Township man is among two people who pleaded guilty Tuesday in connection with their illegal involvement with the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said Donald Bernard Sr., 68, of West Orange, a former high-ranking employee of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. (NWCDC) on Tuesday admitted accepting $956,948 in kickback payments for his and the former executive director’s assistance in awarding work to contractors.

Bernard pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose Linares in Newark federal court to two counts in a 20-count indictment returned in December 2014, charging him with using interstate facilities to promote and facilitate bribery in violation of the Travel Act, and a separate count of information that charges him with making a false 2009 personal tax return.

In addition, Giacomo “Jack” DeRosa, 59, of Clinton Township, who was also previously indicted in December 2014, pleaded guilty before Linares on Tuesday to several counts charging him with laundering a portion of $85,000 he provided to Bernard from January 2008 to August 2012 in connection with roofing work that Bernard facilitated for DeRosa with the NWCDC.

According to court documents and statements, Bernard served as a consultant to the NWCDC, from 2008 to January 2010, and then as a salaried employee, from January 2010 to March 2013. Between 2008 and March 2013, Bernard was allegedly part of a arrangement with former NWCDC Executive Director Linda Watkins Brashear to solicit $956,948 in cash kickbacks from certain contractors in exchange for providing them work and other assistance.

Bernard and Brashear allegedly facilitated NWCDC payments to contractors to fund cash kickbacks to themselves, knowing payments were inflated above the amount of work performed. They allegedly knew that in numerous instances no work at all had been performed. Bernard and Brashear allegedly used their email accounts to facilitate the scheme.

Bernard and Brashear allegedly obtained substantial cash kickbacks from Jim P. Enterprises and New Beginnings Environmental Services, both companies hired to perform landscaping, snow removal, clean-up and sign-posting services, which were affiliated with Bernard but purportedly operated by James Porter. Bernard admitted receiving $409,823 in bribes and kickbacks from Porter’s companies, funded by inflated and fraudulently obtained payments from the NWCDC between January 2008 to December 2012.

Bernard also admitted receiving about $85,000 from Essex Home Improvements, a contracting company operated by DeRosa, between January 2008 to March 2013, which he received either directly or indirectly through companies Bernard controlled.

Bernard also admitted filing a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040, for tax year 2009, which did not include approximately $314,000 in unreported income he received in kickbacks.

Brashear pleaded guilty on Dec. 21, 2015, to devising a scheme to defraud the NWCDC as well as filing a false tax return by failing to report substantial income she received in connection with the kickback scheme. Among the approximately $1 million in kickbacks that Brashear admitted receiving were approximately $260,000 from James Porter and $27,000 from DeRosa. Porter 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.

DeRosa admitted that between January 2008 and August 2012 he provided Bernard with a series of payments totaling approximately $85,000 for Bernard’s action and assistance in procuring NWCDC roofing work for DeRosa’s company.

DeRosa provided the payments to Bernard either directly, or to Bernard’s consulting firm, or to a Newark-based civic organization run by Bernard, the African American Heritage Parade Committee. DeRosa also admitted to laundering $20,000 of the money by having it paid to Bernard indirectly through intermediaries in order to disguise DeRosa or Essex Home Improvements as the source of the funds.

Two intermediaries DeRosa admitted to using to launder funds provided to Bernard included a subcontractor doing work for DeRosa’s company and James Porter.

The Travel Act charges to which Bernard pleaded guilty each carry a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison; the charge of filing a false tax return is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of three years in prison. Under the terms of the plea, the sentences on all three counts to which Bernard pleaded guilty shall run consecutively. All charges are also punishable by a fine of $250,000.

The money laundering counts to which DeRosa pleaded guilty each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a maximum fine equal to about $500,000.

Bernard and DeRosa are scheduled to be sentenced April 7.

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