Newark, N.J., Businessman Sentenced To Two Years’ Probation For Extortion Conspiracy
TRENTON, N.J. – Newark, N.J., businessman Sonnie Cooper was sentenced today to two years of probation, including eight months of home confinement, for his part in an extortion conspiracy in which a former Newark deputy mayor official used his official position to steer demolition work to Cooper’s trucking company, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
U.S. District Judge Freda L.Wolfson imposed the sentence today in Trenton federal court. A jury returned a guilty verdict against Cooper, 70, and former Newark Deputy Mayor for Public Safety Ronald Salahuddin, 62, following a trial in October 2011. Salahuddin and Cooper were both convicted of one count of conspiracy to extort under the color of official right. They were each acquitted of one count of attempted extortion under the color of official right, and two counts of bribery. Salahuddin also was acquitted of an additional count of bribery.
On Feb. 11, 2013, Judge Wolfson sentenced Salahuddin to one year and one day in prison.
According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial:
Shortly after Salahuddin became deputy mayor in July 2006 and through December 2007, Salahuddin and Cooper conspired to use Salahuddin’s official position to steer City of Newark and Prudential Center demolition work to a cooperating witness who, in exchange for Salahuddin’s official action and influence, had to give a portion of that work to Cooper, the owner of S. Cooper Brothers Trucking, Inc. (“Cooper Trucking”).
While deputy mayor, Salahuddin maintained a concealed financial interest in Cooper Trucking. Salahuddin mortgaged approximately $900,000 worth of property as collateral for Cooper Trucking, as well as lent money to Cooper for payroll and received money from Cooper related to the company’s operations.
In addition to probation, Judge Wolfson fined him $3,000.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI’s Trenton and Newark Field Offices, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge David Velazquez; and IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Shantelle P. Kitchen, for the investigation leading to today’s sentence.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Harvey Bartle of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Trenton, Assistant U.S. Attorneys and Zahid N. Quraishi of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark, and James B. Nobile, chief of the Special Prosecutions Division.
Defense counsel: Alan Zegas Esq., Chatham, N.J