Trenton’s Mayor, his brother and an ex-con are accused of running a scheme that included bribes, betrayal and an “Uncle Remus” code for carrying out their alleged criminal activities.
Mayor Tony Mack, his brother Rafael, and a third man, Joseph Giorgianni -- an ex-con who is one of the mayor’s closest associates, according to prosecutors -- are all charged in connection with the alleged scheme to commit extortion.
Federal prosecutors say Mayor Mack and Giorgianni cooked up a scheme with two "businessmen" that would allow those businessmen to buy city property for about one-third of its cost and pocket $119,000 in the process. Mayor Mack and Giorgianni had no idea that both “businessmen” were cooperating witnesses for the government, prosecutors said.
The investigation began nearly two years ago when one of the cooperating witnesses started recording conversations with Giorgianni, officials said.
“It became clear, relatively quickly, that Giorgianni was a bagman for the Mayor,” said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
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Giorgianni told the informant that Mayor Mack used him as an intermediary or buffer, prosecutors said. According to court documents, Giannini told the informant, “Look, Tony knows they ain’t never gonna break me. Tony sees me do something real serious one day. He knows I’m not giving anybody up. Jail, that’s my business so Tony’s safe.”
According to Fishman, the informant and the second cooperating witness told Giorgianni they wanted to build a parking garage in Trenton and were willing to pay for the mayor’s assistance. The property they wanted was assessed at $271,00, according to Fishman. The “businessmen” offered to pay the mayor and Giorgianni to get the price down to $200,000. Giorgianni came back with a different offer, Fishman says -- they could pay $100,000 for the property and give the other $100,000 to the mayor and Giorgianni. Fishman says by the time the scheme was agreed upon, the “businessmen” would end up paying $119,000 to the mayor and Giorgianni.
The mayor approached another city official to write up the letter he needed in order to accept the lower fee for the property, Fishman says.
When the alleged payoff payments began, prosecutors say Rafael Mack was the money courier. They also allege that the three men used the code phrases, “Uncle Remus came by,” “Uncle Remus landed,” and “Uncle Remus is coming to visit,” when payments were being made. At the time of their arrests, Mayor Mack and Giorgianni had pocketed $54,000 in dirty money, Fishman says.
Mayor Mack and Giorgianni were both arrested at their homes early Monday morning. The mayor’s brother turned himself in to the FBI a few hours later.
They are charged with conspiring to solicit and accept more than $100,000 in bribes. The charges carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years in federal prison.