TRENTON –A Colombian national who formerly lived in Elizabeth pleaded guilty Monday to assisting suspended Department of Corrections administrator Gerald T. Kennedy in a bid rigging and kickback scheme involving hundreds of thousands of dollars in state contracts, Attorney General Anne Milgram announced.
Jasher Guerrero Ramos, 49, pleaded guilty to bribery, a second-degree crime, before Superior Court Judge Ira E. Kreizman in Monmouth County, according to Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni. The charge was contained in an Aug. 29, 2007 state grand jury indictment.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Guerrero Ramos be sentenced to five years in state prison. Deputy Attorney General Steven J. Zweig took the guilty plea for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Sentencing is scheduled for Feb. 5, 2010.
Guerrero Ramos must fully cooperate with the state in its ongoing investigation and prosecution of Kennedy and others. He will be barred from doing business with any public agency in New Jersey for a period of ten years, along with any company in which he is a principal or holds a substantial ownership interest.
Guerrero Ramos fled the U.S. prior to being indicted. He was arrested in June 2008 in Colombia on a warrant obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice. He was extradited to the U.S. in July 2009 and turned over to DCJ detectives by federal authorities. He is being held in the Monmouth County Jail.
“The guilty plea of this defendant, following his capture and extradition from Colombia, reflects our resolve to see that every person responsible for this corrupt scheme is brought to justice,” Milgram said.
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 Ramos was listed in corporate records as owner of Pro Painting. However, the state’s investigation determined that Kennedy actually controlled the company. Kennedy allegedly received more than $45,000 in kickbacks on those contracts with the help of Guerrero Ramos and another man, Ronald Hayes, who has pleaded guilty in the scheme.
In pleading guilty, Guerrero Ramos admitted that he 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 $30,000 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.
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