TRENTON, New Jersey (Reuters) - Federal prosecutors on Tuesday wrapped up a corruption case against the mayor of New Jersey’s capital city who is accused of a scheme to accept bribes linked to the development of a parking garage on city property.
Trenton Mayor Tony Mack faces bribery and extortion charges after becoming ensnared in a 2010 sting operation with would-be developers who were actually government informants.
Under the scheme, the developers would buy city property for the garage for $100,000 less than the land was worth, and the Democratic mayor would receive money in exchange, prosecutors say.
The mayor’s brother Ralphiel is accused of acting as a bag man to pick up the bribe money, prosecutors said. The informants offered a bribe of $119,000, about $54,000 of which changed hands, prosecutors said.
Mack, 48, who remains in office, his brother and another go-between, Joseph Giorgianni, used code words to discuss their plans, Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Moran said in his closing statement to the jury in U.S. District Court in Trenton.
The words “Uncle Remus” were code for cash that was destined as a bribe for the mayor, he said.
Stopping for pizza at a steak house run by Giorgianni was code for picking up the bribe money, Moran told the jury. The code words were picked up in telephone conversations secretly recorded by law enforcement, he said.
“Tony Mack did not ask any questions,” Moran said. “He understood just what they meant. He knew just what they were talking about - bribery.”
Mack, who was arrested in September 2012, has been accused by critics of nepotism and mismanagement since taking office in 2010 in the crime-plagued, economically depressed city of 85,000 people. He was reportedly deeply in debt at the time of his arrest.
The prosecutor said in April 2012 that the mayor received a bribe payment, citing as evidence that the mayor promptly went to a local tax office to pay an overdue bill.
Mack and his brother are charged with extortion, accepting bribes and scheming to defraud. Giorgianni pleaded guilty in December and awaits sentencing.
Defense attorneys for the brothers were slated to present closing arguments on Wednesday.
Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Ken Wills