Law & Justice

Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. contractor gets two years in jail for role in bribery scheme

Echo Lake in West Milford, the source of drinking water for Newark, was once overseen by the now defunct Newark Watershed Conservation Development Corp.

A former contractor of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corporation (NWCDC) was sentenced today to 24 months in prison for his role in a bribery and kickback scheme involving an employee and consultant of the NWCDC.

James Porter, 80, of East Orange, New Jersey, previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares to an information charging him with one count of conspiring with Donald Bernard Sr., a former employee and consultant of the NWCDC, and others, to defraud the NWCDC and one count of tax evasion.

Judge Linares imposed the sentence today in federal court in Newark.

Sign Up for E-News

The NWCDC filed for bankruptcy protection under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in January 2015 and no longer manages Newark's watershed. The city currently oversees the watershed.

Linda Watkins-Brashear, the former director of the NWCDC, pleaded guilty in December 2015 to soliciting nearly $1 million in bribes from businesses in return for overinflated and no-work contracts. She is awaiting sentencing.

A state comptroller's report issued in February 2014 was critical of the administration of former Mayor Cory Booker, now a U.S. senator, for failing to properly monitor the the agency.

Between October 2008 and April 2013, Porter conspired with Bernard to provide Bernard and others with a stream of concealed, undisclosed kickbacks in exchange for Bernard’s assistance in securing business opportunities and payments to two companies operated by Porter: Jim P. Enterprises LLC (JPE) and New Beginnings Environmental Services (NBES), a company in which Bernard was also a partner.

Both JPE and NBES purported to perform landscaping, snow removal, clean-up and sign posting services to the NWCDC from 2008 through 2013. JPE received payments from the NWCDC totaling more than $500,000 and NBES received approximately $290,000 from the NWCDC.

Both companies submitted invoices to the NWCDC that were fraudulently inflated to cover kickback payments to Bernard and billed for some services, such as landscaping and snow removal, which were never performed.

Porter passed a stream of kickback payments to Bernard totaling more than $500,000, which was funded by the proceeds JPE and NBES obtained from the NWCDC, including cash withdrawn from the bank accounts of JPE and NBES totaling $378,867; Bernard’s use of an ATM card issued in his name to withdraw at least $74,681 directly from the NBES bank account; Bernard’s use of the NBES ATM card issued in Bernard’s name to pay personal expenses of nearly $5,000; and checks written from the accounts of JPE and NBES totaling $41,650, which were made payable to Bernard, or to companies he controlled, including a consulting company, Bernard & Associates, and the African American Heritage Parade Committee (AAHPC).

In August 2012, Porter also accepted a $5,000 check payable to JPE from Essex Home Improvements, another contractor of the NWCDC for work that  was never performed, and delivered the proceeds to Bernard. The payment from Essex Home Improvements was provided to JPE, rather than to Bernard directly, as a means of concealing a kickback from Essex Home Improvements to Bernard.

From 2009 to 2012, Porter failed to report income of $767,750 from the proceeds that JPE and NBES received from the NWCDC. Porter also pleaded guilty to intentionally underreporting income for the 2012 tax year on his personal tax return by $151,603, resulting in tax due and owing of $48,971.

In addition to the prison term, Judge Linares sentenced Porter to two years of supervised release. Porter must also pay restitution of $711,083, which includes  $539,583 towards the NWCDC and $171,500 to the IRS.

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News


Traffic shifts this weekend as bridge replacement project advances

March 1, 2018

Newark, NJ—New Jersey Department of Transportation (NJDOT) officials announced Thursday a long-term traffic shift on I-280 eastbound and I-280 westbound starting this weekend to allow for bridge replacement work to advance to the final stage in construction of the I-280 and Route 21 Interchange Improvements Project in Newark.

Beginning Friday, March 2, the NJDOT is scheduled to ...

Rutgers voices support for proposed state budget

March 14, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK - Rutgers University officials have often been wary of the governor's annual budget message, wondering what type of budget cuts the university may sustain and how it would potentially impact tuition and the overall quality of education.

This budget message, delivered March 13, appears to be a sigh of relief.

Pete McDonough, Vice President of External Affairs at ...

Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey welcome first African-American leader in its history

PISCATAWAY - One of the largest Girl Scout councils in New Jersey, Girl Scouts Heart of New Jersey (GSHNJ), today announced the appointment of longtime advocate of girl empowerment and Girl Scouting, Natasha Hemmings, to Chief Executive Officer. Hemmings will take the GSHNJ helm on April 9.

Hemmings, a Piscataway resident who holds a Masters in Public Administration from Rutgers ...

Trees Have Sex? Rutgers Researchers Have All the Answers

NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ - A few years ago, Rutgers researcher Jennifer Blake-Mahmud was working on a botany project in Virginia when colleagues pointed out a striped maple, a common tree in the understory of mountain forests from Nova Scotia to Georgia. 


“They told me, ‘We think it switches sex from year to year, but we don’t know why,’ and I said, ...

How Can NJ Legalize Marijuana Before Updating its Liquor Laws from the Dark Ages?

February 26, 2018

In Trenton, did you know it’s illegal to throw a bad pickle on the street, or that men in New Jersey are banned from knitting during fishing season?

Sure, there are plenty of silly, outdated laws on the books.

Here is another wacky one: Supermarket chains in New Jersey are prevented from acquiring more than two liquor licenses.

Huh? Why??

That law harks back to the Kennedy ...