TRENTON –The Division of Criminal Justice has extradited a man from Columbia on charges he assisted suspended Department of Corrections administrator Gerald T. Kennedy in a bid rigging and kickback scheme involving hundreds of thousands of dollars in state contracts.
According to Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni, Jasher Guerrero, 49, a Columbian national who formerly lived in Elizabeth, was charged in an Aug. 29, 2007 state grand jury indictment which remained sealed until today. He is charged with bribery in official matters, official misconduct and misconduct by a corporate official, all second degree crimes.
Guerrero fled the U.S. prior to being indicted. He was arrested in June 2008 in Columbia on a warrant obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice. He was extradited to the U.S. earlier this month, and turned over to DCJ detectives yesterday by federal authorities. He is being held in the Monmouth County Jail.
The U.S. Department of Justice, the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Government of Colombia assisted the Division of Criminal Justice in Guerrero’s capture and extradition to the United States.
The Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau obtained an indictment on April 2, 2008, charging Kennedy, 47, of Red Bank, with steering $678,000 in state contracts between 2003 and 2005 to three companies that were owned by friends. As Assistant Director of the DOC Division of Operations, in charge of the Capital Planning & Construction Unit, Kennedy had control over soliciting bids and selecting contractors for small capital projects costing under $41,100.
Kennedy allegedly steered 18 state contracts totaling approximately $348,000 to Pro General Contracting Inc., aka Pro Painting & General Contracting Inc. Guerrero was listed in corporate records as owner of Pro Painting. However, the state’s investigation revealed that Kennedy actually controlled the company. Kennedy allegedly received more than $45,000 in kickbacks on those contracts with the help of Guerrero and another man, Ronald Hayes, who has pleaded guilty in the scheme.
Guerrero allegedly funneled cash back to Kennedy through Hayes by writing checks to Hayes as if Hayes performed work for Pro Painting, when he did not actually perform any work for the company. The state’s investigation revealed that Hayes received checks totaling approximately $50,000 from Pro Painting. In pleading guilty, Hayes admitted he would keep just 5 to 10 percent of the amount of each check and give the rest of the money directly to Kennedy.
Kennedy allegedly received more than $35,000 in kickbacks on eight contracts totaling $170,000 that he awarded to SBC Construction Inc., the company of another friend, Alfred “Buddy” Canale. Canale has also pleaded guilty.
In addition, Kennedy allegedly steered $160,000 in contracts to a third company SteelGrey LLC, which was owned by his friend Mark Stermer, 42, of Red Bank, who was indicted with him.
The charges against Kennedy and Stermer are pending.
Although Kennedy was required to seek bids from at least three pre-qualified contractors, he frequently solicited bids exclusively from the companies he and his friends controlled, and he often allegedly dictated the amount of each bid so he could award the contract as he desired. The contracts were for masonry, painting, “skirting” of a trailer, and roofing repairs.
Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $150,000.
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