Newark,NJ—Mayor Ras J. Baraka's former campaign treasurer pleaded guilty Tuesday to embezzling more than $220,000 in campaign funds.
Frederick Murphy Jr., of Bloomfield, pleaded guilty today in U.S. District Court in Newark to three federal counts charging him with wire fraud, bank fraud, and tax evasion before Chief Judge Jose L. Linares.
Murphy served as the treasurer for election campaign accounts associated with Baraka’s mayoral campaign between January 2014 and March 2017. During that time, Murphy admitted embezzling more than $220,000 from those accounts. He wrote phony checks in the names of various consultants and vendors for services that were never performed.
Leany Pichardo, a spokesperson for Team Baraka, expressed disappointment in Murphy’s conduct towards the Baraka campaign.
“Mr. Murphy committed fraud against the Baraka campaign,” said Pichardo in a statement provided to TAPInto Newark. “He betrayed the confidence of those who trusted him to perform his duties honestly and stole from the campaign.”
Pichardo said the city of Newark was in no way involved with the crimes and that the Baraka campaign and those connected to it were the victims.
“When Murphy's misconduct was discovered months ago, he was fired from the campaign and an accounting firm was retained to ascertain the extent of the theft,” said Pichardo. “Mr. Murphy's misconduct was in no way connected to any work he performed for the City of Newark. The victim is the Baraka campaign and all those who placed their trust in Mr. Murphy.”
The checks were cashed by Murphy, who forged the signatures of check payees and signed his own signature, so the checks were double endorsed. He presented the forged checks to a bank in Essex County. Then Murphy reported the fraudulent checks as legitimate campaign expenditures when he filled out quarterly filings with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission. The false reports were uploaded by the Election Law Enforcement Commission onto its website for public reference.
Murphy also admitted to under-reporting $102,954 in embezzled campaign funds on his personal income tax return for 2016.
For the wire fraud charge, Murphy faces carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The bank fraud charge Murphy faces carries a maximum potential penalty of 30 years in prison and a $1 million fine.
Murphy also faces a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the tax evasion charge. Murphy is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 11, 2018. He was released on a $50,000 bond.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, and IRS–Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Bryant Jackson in Newark, with the success of this investigation.
Murphy is now the third person affiliated with one of Baraka's prior campaigns to plead guilty in federal court to financial crimes.
Kiburi Tucker and Linda Jumah, political consultants with Elite Strategies LLC, were both found guilty of financial crimes by the Special Prosecutions Division of the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark.
Tucker, 43, of Newark, pleaded guilty in November after being charged with one count of wire fraud and four counts of tax evasion.
Jumah under-reported income that she received in 2015 after filing a false federal personal income tax return. Tucker was sentenced to more than three years in prison and Jumah was sentenced to three years of probation, eight months of which will be spent in home confinement.