2003-04-28 -- Barnes, Martin G. -- Sentencing -- News Release

Former Paterson Mayor Barnes Gets 37 Months for Accepting Travel, Home Improvements, Cash from City Contractors

NEWARK - A judge today sentenced former Paterson mayor Martin G. Barnes to 37 months in federal prison for accepting free trips, home improvements, a swimming pool and more from city vendors or prospective vendors, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie announced.

U.S. District Judge William G. Bassler derided Barnes, 55, for his tepid acceptance of responsibility in the face of his taking bribes and gratuities of between $200,000 and $350,000, primarily from a principal with United Gunite Corporation of Irvington. In return the contractor received millions of dollars in contracts with the City of Paterson.

Judge Bassler cited a long list of "egregious" behavior and deceit by Barnes, including: taking free travel to places that included Rio De Janeiro and Aruba, in which Barnes purported to be on city business; taking tax deductions for trip expenses paid by his corrupt association with United Gunite; accepting "female companionship" paid for by Gunite on trips; taking home improvements - including a custom swimming pool and waterfall in his backyard - suits, cash, designer suits and more.

Judge Bassler also fined Barnes $1,000 and ordered him to serve 200 hours of community service upon release from prison.

Barnes, the mayor of Paterson between 1997 and 2002, when he lost a re-election bid following his federal indictment, was allowed by Judge Bassler to surrender the first week of June to begin serving his prison term.

Barnes' sentence of 37 months fell at the top of the 30- to 37-month range called for under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for Barnes' guilty pleas to mail fraud and tax evasion, taking into account the circumstances of his crimes, position of trust as an elected official and other factors.

"Judge Bassler was right on the mark with both the sentencing and his condemnation of Mr. Barnes' and his corrupt acts," said Christie. "Sadly, this was Mr. Barnes' way of doing business for the people of Paterson. Even now, with that record fully exposed, this disgraced public official could not bring himself to take full responsibility for his acts."

"Others in public office should take note of Mr. Barnes' example. If you are involved in corruption or contemplating it, you should wonder if we and the FBI are right around the corner watching."

As the investigation into Barnes unfolded, corporate officials with United Gunite began cooperating in the investigation, which included hours of consensually recorded conversations in which Barnes discussed his corrupt relationship with United Gunite and other contractors.

On July 1, 2002, Barnes pleaded guilty to one count of mail fraud and one count of subscribing to a false tax return.

Count One of Barnes' Indictment alleged that from almost his first day in office, beginning in January 1997, he began accepting things of value from contractors and individuals in exchange for favorable treatment and then concealed his receipt of those benefits by lying to the Paterson City Council and filing false financial disclosure forms with the State of New Jersey.

When Barnes pleaded guilty he was not required to admit each and every thing of value he accepted. However, Count One listed them in detail, and many were cited by Judge Bassler today. Among the items of value identified in the Indictment:

Hotel expenses, meals, drinks, air fare and train fare to places including Rio De Janeiro, Reno, Nevada, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, London as well as other locations;

Female companionship paid for by a city contractor on the trip to Rio De Janeiro;

Home improvements, including a new gunite swimming pool with a waterfall provided by the contractor;

Designer suits provided by the contractor;

Backyard excavation worth $3,540 paid for by another contractor

A $5,000 cash payment from a third contractor.

Despite requests from the Paterson City Council for Barnes to disclose details and the source of his extensive travel, Barnes refused to provide the information. Barnes also failed to disclose the travel and other things of value in his annual Financial Disclosure Statements, as required by the New Jersey Local Government Ethics Law, and had them mailed to the state Department of Community Affairs.

Christie credited Special Agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Louie F. Allen; Special Agents of the IRS Criminal Investigation section, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Anne D. Fahy; and Ruth Ritzema, Special Agent in Charge, Inspector General, Department of Housing and Urban Development, for their agencies' respective roles in the Barnes investigation.

The case was handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carbone, Deputy Chief, and Michael F. Buchanan, of the Special Prosecutions Division of the U.S. Attorneys's Office in Newark.

 

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Defense counsel: David W. Fasset, Esq. Chatham