TRENTON, N.J. -- Federal agents arrested the mayor of the state capital early yesterday in a corruption investigation, alleging he agreed to accept bribes in connection with a proposed parking garage -- actually a fake project created by authorities trying to snare him.
Mayor Tony Mack, his brother Ralphiel and convicted sex offender Joseph Giorgianni, a Mack supporter who owns a Trenton sandwich shop, were accused of conspiring to obstruct, delay and affect interstate commerce by extortion under color of official right.
Federal prosecutors alleged Mack agreed to use his influence in the fake project, which was created by investigators to try to capture Mack, who has financial problems and had attracted legal scrutiny since taking office.
U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said the city-owned land for the garage was assessed at $271,000. He said Mack and Giorgianni agreed to accept $100,000 for it for the city coffers, as long as the purported developers paid a bribe of $100,000 to be split between the them.
A federal magistrate ordered Mack released on an unsecured $150,000 bond Monday, but ruled that he cannot leave the state.
Federal agents began working with an informant to gather information on Mack and the others in September 2010, just two months after Mack took office.
Fishman said investigators quickly understood the relationship between the mayor and the sandwich shop owner: "It became clear he was a bagman for the mayor."
The two received $54,000 and anticipated accepting an additional $65,000 from a cooperating witness who purported to be a developer, according to court documents that laid out the sting.
The criminal complaint portrays Giorgianni as a boastful man who did most of the talking with two FBI informants, one cooperating to get a better deal in his own criminal case, another who was paid.
The sting was similar to the "Bid Rig" sting in 2009 that resulted in criminal charges against 46 people, many of them local officials.