Hamilton Township Mayor Convicted of Extortion, Money Laundering

The mayor of New Jersey's largest suburb has been convicted of extortion and money laundering.

Tuesday, Nov 20, 2012  |  Updated 7:58 PM EDT
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Hamilton Township Mayor Convicted of Extortion

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The mayor of New Jersey's largest suburb has been convicted of extortion and money laundering.
 
The Times of Trenton reports a federal jury deliberated for about four and a half hours before finding Hamilton Township mayor John Bencivengo, 58, guilty Tuesday on those counts as well as attempted extortion and two bribery-related counts.

  The extortion and money laundering counts carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years.
 
The trial hinged on the account of a former insurance broker who testified she made payments to Bencivengo in exchange for his influence in ensuring she maintained her contract with the school district.
 
Marliese Ljuba secretly recorded conversations with Bencivengo in her role as a cooperating witness for the FBI.
 
The U.S. Attorney's Office contended Bencivengo asked Ljuba for money to pay his taxes and living expenses. In return, he allegedly agreed to speak to a school board member about voting to renew the health insurance brokerage contract.
 
Bencivengo's attorney claimed the payments were loans that Bencivengo intended to pay back and that Bencivengo didn't have the ability to influence school board decisions.
 
Bencivengo, who earns $98,000 a year, became mayor in 2008 and was sworn in to a second term in January.
 

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