Union City, New Jersey, Inspector Admits Conspiring To Rig Contractor Selection Process For Community Development Projects
NEWARK, N.J. – An inspector at the Union City Community Development Agency (UCCDA) today admitted conspiring with contractors to rig the selection process for home improvement, sidewalk replacement and other projects, causing losses of at least $400,000, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Johnny Garces, 52, of Union City, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge William H. Walls in Newark federal court to an information charging him with one count of conspiring with others to obtain by fraud funds provided by Union City.
According to documents in this case and statements made in court:
Between April 2007 and July 2011, Garces was an inspector at the UCCDA, a government agency that receives funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under a federal block grant that provides money for home improvement projects, sidewalk replacement and other projects.
From 2007 through 2011, Garces conspired with contractors Joseph Lado, 66, of Fort Lee, New Jersey, Leovaldo Fundora, 53 of Guttenberg, New Jersey, and others to rig the selection process for HUD-funded projects through false and misleading bids. In addition to instructing Lado and Fundora to submit phony, higher bids from competitors, Garces also fabricated higher bids from numerous fictitious companies so that Lado, Fundora and others would secure the projects.
The conspiracy charge to which Garces pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Garces is scheduled to be sentenced on July 7, 2015. Lado and Fundora have both pleaded guilty for their roles in the scheme and await sentencing.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel; and special agents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi, with the investigation leading to today’s guilty plea.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amy Luria of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
Defense counsel: Christopher L. Patella Esq., Bayonne, New Jersey