PATERSON, N.J - Tuesday morning Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that a state grand jury has indicted Mayor Torres and three supervisors in the Paterson Department of Public Works (DPW) for allegedly using on-duty city workers for renovations at a private warehouse leased by the relatives of the mayor while the employees were being paid by the city.
"This is a case of old-school public corruption and abuse of power," Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino stated at a news conference announcing the charges Tuesday afternoon. "Mayor Torres allegedly treated city workers like his personal handymen, treated taxpayer dollars like his own. We have zero tolerance for this type of abuse of public office in New Jersey."
The six-count indictment against Torres and three workers, Joseph Mania, 51, of Randolph, Timothy Hanlon, 30, of Woodland Park, and Imad Elmowaswes, 52, of Clifton include charges of conspiracy (2nd degree), official misconduct (2nd degree), theft by unlawful taking or disposition (3rd degree), and tampering with public records (4th degree).
The indictment alleges that Mayor Torres ordered the three supervisors to perform renovation work at the private warehouse leased by Torres' daughter and nephew. The work included painting, carpentry and electrical work, and was allegedly performed while the three supervisors were working for and being paid by the City of Paterson. Prosecutors said the work was performed between July 2014 and April 2015.
"Mayor Torres played the generous father and uncle, but he left the bill for his largess with city taxpayers, who paid for the overtime shifts that city employees worked at this private warehouse," Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice said. "We allege that these defendants corruptly exploited public workers and funds for their own benefit."
It is further alleged that Mania caused false time-keeping records to be submitted to the city falsely stating that Mania and other DPW employees were working overtime on city projects when in fact spent overtime shifts working at the private warehouse. By submitting and authorizing the time records, Mania caused the City of Paterson to make overtime payments to himself and other employees.
In response to the charges filed against Mayor Torres, he stated, "I am extremely disappointed and surprised that the Attorney General has elected to pursue this case and file these charges against me today. I have been aware of the investigation for some time, and I have never wavered from the fact that I am innocent.”
Second-degree crimes carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of up to $150,000. The official misconduct and patter of official misconduct charges carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prision without parole. Third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in person and a fine up to $15,000. Fourth-degree crimes carry a sentence of up to 18 months in prison and a fine of $10,000.
"I fully intend to vigorously defend myself against these allegations, and I look forward to the opportunity to present all of the facts in a court of law," Torres' statement said. "I am confident when the full story is told, I will be vindicated."
Torres was absent from last nights council meeting and the meeting was cut short as reporters swarmed to get comments from council members. Councilwoman Maritza Davila did not want to discuss the matter and said simply "it was a sad day for Paterson".
Attorney General Porrino urges anyone with information pertaining to this ongoing investigation to contact the Division of Criminal Justice at its toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ to report information confidentially.
The defendants are being processed on the charges at the Totowa State Police station and the ongoing investigation continues led by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau.