FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 16, 2012
NEWARK, N.J. – A Union City, N.J., contractor appeared in court today to face a federal charge that he agreed to give bribes and corrupt payments in connection with a Union City Zoning Board matter, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Bryant Venegas, 26, of Clifton, N.J., is charged by Complaint with one count of knowingly and corruptly agreeing to give a bribe. Venegas surrendered this morning to the FBI and appeared this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickson in Newark federal court. He was released on a $50,000 bond.
According to the criminal Complaint unsealed today:
In a scheme lasting from March 2007 to July 2011, Venegas agreed to give thousands of dollars in cash payments provided to him by a witness cooperating with the government, as well as other corrupt benefits, to a Union City government employee in an attempt to obtain construction approvals from the Union City Zoning Board of Adjustment. Venegas was recorded by law enforcement telling the cooperating witness about his plan to pass cash and other benefits to contacts in Union City government, including rims and tires for one official’s automobile.
During the course of Venegas’ communications and meetings with the cooperating witness, he regularly advised the cooperating witness that Venegas would have to pass on money to others in order to guarantee the success of the cooperating witness’ zoning applications. On multiple occasions, Venegas asked whether the cooperating witness was recording him on behalf of law enforcement. He also said he would kill anyone who set him up.
The count with which Venegas is charged carries a statutory maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Michael B. Ward in Newark, with the investigation leading to the charge.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Luria of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
The charge and allegations contained in the Complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Defense counsel: Assistant Federal Public Defender Linda Foster, Newark