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Press Release

Essex County Man Admits Wire Fraud in $470,000 Kickback Scheme Involving Jersey City Condo Complex

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of New Jersey

CAMDEN, N.J. – An Essex County, New Jersey, man today admitted conspiring with two others in a kickback scheme to defraud the owner of a condominium complex in Jersey City of $470,000, U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger announced.

Jonathan Smith, 56, of Montclair, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Karen M. Williams in Camden to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud.

Smith’s conspirator, Nathaniel Obedos, pleaded guilty on July 6, 2023, before Judge Williams and is awaiting sentencing. Ranaldo Bennett, Smith’s other conspirator, was arrested and charged for the same conduct, and his case is still pending.

According to the publicly filed documents and statements made in Court:

From November 2018 through July 2020, Smith conspired with Bennett and Obedos to engage in a kickback scheme to defraud the owner of the condominium complex. Bennett was the complex’s lead property manager and Smith was its superintendent. Bennett and Smith steered repair and maintenance work to Obedos and his company. Bennett and Smith requested and received kickbacks from Obedos. To fund these kickbacks, Bennett and Smith falsified invoices that grossly inflated the value of Obedos’s work. Relying on those fake invoices, the complex paid Obedos the inflated prices, and Obedos then used the excess money to pay Bennett and Smith kickbacks. The complex paid Obedos and his company over $1 million for work that was actually valued at $500,000. Obedos used the overpayments to pay $460,000 in kickbacks to Bennett and approximately $30,000 in kickbacks to Smith.

The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years and a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. Sentencing for Smith is scheduled for June 10, 2024.

U.S. Attorney Sellinger credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, with the investigation leading to the today’s guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Blake Coppotelli of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit.

The charges and allegations against Bennett are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


Updated February 8, 2024

Financial Fraud
Press Release Number: 24-054