NEWARK, NJ - Kiburi Tucker, a longtime friend of Newark Mayor Ras Baraka and the business partner of a Newark woman who admitted to tax evasion last year, was sentenced today to more than three years in prison for wire fraud and tax evasion, federal authorities announced.
Kiburi D. Tucker, 43, of Newark, pleaded guilty in November before Chief U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares after being charged with one count of wire fraud and four counts of tax evasion.
Linares imposed the 38-month sentence today in U.S. District Court in Newark. The two counts that Tucker was sentenced for were out of a total of five counts filed against him as part of an August 14 plea agreement, according to court documents.
Tucker previously admitted in court that during a period from January 2012 to December 2015, he engaged in numerous acts of wire fraud in his capacity as the executive director of The Centre Inc., a non-profit child care center located in Newark's South Ward.
Tucker admitted that he used the ATM card assigned to The Centre for what was described in court as taking out "a steady stream of funds" falsely for the benefit of the child care center.
Instead, Tucker used the card to pay for personal expenses. These expenses included more than $165,000 for costs generated from travel to several states, including Hawaii and Nevada, as well as gambling expenses.
Tucker also admitted to using an additional $95,000 of the child care center's funds for personal expenses, including for costs generated by personal travel and for gambling.
Tucker's additional admissions included using funds supposed to be used for the benefit of the child care center for $527 in personal home furnishing and art, as well as for a personal cash advance at a casino in Atlantic City.
In total, Tucker defrauded The Centre of more than $332,116 from 2012 through 2015, according to court documents.
Regarding the tax evasion count, Tucker admitted in court that while an employee of the Passaic Valley Sewerage Commission (PVSC), a job that paid him more than $90,000 per year, he intentionally underreported both the proceeds that he embezzled from the Centre as well as the income generated as part of his partnership in Elite Strategies, a political fundraising and consulting company, including funds that he split with his business partner.
Tucker also admitted in court that he was responsible for underreporting $177,040 in income from these sources on his 2015 tax return, resulting in a tax loss of $56,509.
In addition to the prison term, Linares sentenced Tucker to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $133,624 to the IRS and forfeit $334,116.
"I'm tremendously embarrassed for doing what I did, which hurt my family, my friends, and my community," said Tucker, the son of Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker and the late Assemblyman and City Council President Donald Tucker, when he pleaded guilty last year. "They depended on me, and they supported me. And I let them down."
"I will try to rectify what I have done to the best of my ability," Tucker added. "I accept the consequences, and I take full responsibility for my actions."
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Bradley W. Cohen in Newark; IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jonathan D. Larsen; the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert; and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi, with the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jacques S. Pierre and Jihee G. Suh of the Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
Tucker is being represented by attorney Timothy M. Donohue of the West Orange-based firm of Arleo & Donohue, as well as co-counsel Alfred C. DeCotiis, a name partner in the prominent Teaneck-based law firm of DeCotiis, FitzPatrick, Cole & Giblin.
Tucker was the business partner of Linda Jumah, the CEO of Elite Strategies.
Jumah, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion in federal court in November, previously admitted that after sharing proceeds with Tucker, she under-reported $121,941 in income for the 2015 tax year, resulting in a tax loss of $39,633. She was sentenced last month to three years of probation, eight months of which will be spent in home confinement.
Jumah was also ordered to pay $19,633 in restitution to the IRS, along with a $20,000 penalty, both of which can be paid in monthly installments.
Elite Strategies organized the Mayor's Ball, an annual $1,000-a-seat gala fundraiser held two years ago at Mr. Adams Steakhouse. Elite Strategies has also sent out an email blast for Team Baraka and has issued statements on behalf of the mayor, such as a April 2016 announcement of a deal between the city and UBER.
The firm received at least $65,000 in consulting fees from Mayor Ras Baraka's campaign committee, according to reports filed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Records show that between July 2015 and April 2017, the Baraka campaign shelled out three payments of consulting fees of $17,400, $19,000 and $28,000 to Elite Strategies.