Irvington Zoning Officer Admits Attempted Extortion
NEWARK, N.J. – An employee of the Township of Irvington Building and Construction Department (TIBCD) today admitted soliciting corrupt payments from a man posing as a land developer in New York and New Jersey in exchange for securing the necessary documentation and approvals required to obtain building permits for a property in Irvington, New Jersey, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced.
Derrick James, 60, of Irvington, New Jersey, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton to an information charging him with one count of attempted extortion under color of official right. James remains on bail pending sentencing on this charge.
According to documents filed in the case and statements made in court:
From September 2018 to December 2018, while employed as a zoning officer with TIBCD, James represented to a cooperating witness who posed as a land developer in New York and New Jersey that James could facilitate the acquisition of the necessary permits for the proposed rehabilitation of a certain residential property in Irvington. The TIBCD processed the issuance of permits for construction, renovations, and alterations to building structures in Irvington in accordance with the New Jersey Uniform Construction Code, which required that contractors registered and licensed with the State of New Jersey perform certain residential construction. The TIBCD also required the seal of a licensed New Jersey contractor on building, plumbing, and electrical permit applications to issue permits. James met with the cooperating witness on two occasions, during which he accepted a total of approximately $1,500 in cash payments from the cooperating witness. During the meetings, James outlined a corrupt arrangement whereby in exchange for a $1,000 payment and a further $1,000 payment per permit, James would arrange for licensed New Jersey contractors to place their official seals on permit applications for the Irvington property. James further guaranteed that an Irvington inspector would inspect the property and grant the necessary approvals. James told the cooperating witness that the cooperating witness’ payments would also be passed on to the licensed New Jersey contractors and Irvington inspector that James recruited to the scheme.
The count of attempted extortion under color of official right carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 21, 2021.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. in Newark, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tazneen Shahabuddin of the Special Prosecutions Division.