FAIR LAWN, NJ – A Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC) employee has been arrested for attempting to bribe a commission official, former Mayor John Cosgrove, for work and political matters.
Cosgrove, who was appointed to the Commission by Gov. Phil Murphy in 2019, reported the attempt immediately, asking law officials only what he needed to do next.
After Omid Bayati, 39, of Hillsdale, handed over a $1,200 check to Cosgrove in exchange for requested favors, law enforcement took over, reportedly thankful for officials like Cosgrove who are willing to report such corruption.
Cosgrove, five-time mayor in Fair Lawn and popular businessman and volunteer, is also on the board of directors for Bergen New Bridge Medical Center, located in Paramus.
Bayati was arrested and charged on Jan. 7 with "bribery in official and political matters," according to a press release from Attorney General Gurbir Grewal's office. He was charged, as well, with an "offer of unlawful benefit to public servant for official behavior. Both are second degree offenses that carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in state prison.
According to Grewal's release, "While employed at the PVSC in Newark, Bayati allegedly made an improper payment of $1,200 to at least one senior official at the PVSC. He allegedly furnished this payment first by check from an account opened under the name PVSC PAC, an organization unaffiliated with the PVSC, then by hand-to-hand cash transfer.
"It is alleged that, in exchange for these improper payments to the PVSC senior official, Bayati explained that he was seeking help in procuring promotional opportunities within the PVSC and in politics broadly," Grewal's statement reads. "Specifically, he allegedly asked for special consideration and assistance from the PVSC senior official in exchange for the funds."
Deputy Attorney General Samantha Keleher and Law Clerk Samantha Thoma are prosecuting the case for the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA). Bayati was charged in an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau and the OPIA Corruption Bureau.
The Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission referred the matter to OPIA and is cooperating with the investigation.
The PVSC is a state agency responsible for managing and regulating collection and disposal of wastewater generated in a four-county area along the Passaic Valley River Basin, encompassing parts of Bergen, Passaic, Essex and Hudson counties.
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, according to Grewal's office. The charges against Bayati carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in state prison without eligibility for parole under New Jersey’s enhanced penalties for official corruption.
The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.