STATE — A federal jury convicted former Assemblyman and Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas of charges of mail fraud, election finance violations and lying to authorities.
A federal jury in Newark reached its verdict Friday, Oct. 8, after deliberating for more than two days.
Vas and his key political advisor, Melvin Ramos, were each convicted on two counts of mail fraud and two counts of making false statements to authorities.
They were also both found guilty of one count of violating election finance laws, and Vas was found guilty of misappropriating federal funds.
The two men were acquitted on four counts of mail fraud regarding correspondence between attorneys involved in the sale.
Separate state corruption charges are pending against Vas, who is represented by attorney Alan Zegas. U.S. District Judge Susan Wigenton, who presided over the trial, did not set a sentencing date.
“The federal government presented its evidence and a jury has rendered its determination,” said Vas’s mayoral successor, Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz in a statement issued after the cnviction. “A sad chapter in Perth Amboy history is closed and the city can continue to move forward.”
The mail fraud counts are the most serious and carry a maximum prison sentence of 20 years, though both men are expected to serve considerably less time.
Vas was mayor of Perth Amboy from 1990 to 2008 and served as a state Assemblyman beginning in 2003. Beginning in 2008 he was the Assembly’s deputy majority leader.
Ramos, who was campaign treasurer from Vas’ unsuccessful campaign for Congress in 2006, used four straw donors to contribute between $2,000 and $2,100 a piece to Vas’s federal campaign.
Ramos gave each donor cash in an amount equal to the donation that he was seeking and the straw donors provided him with a check made out to the campaign fund.
Vas misappropriated federal affordable-housing funds by profiting from the flip sale of a 12 unit apartment building located at 97-99 DeKalb Avenue in Perth Amboy and using some of the money for his unsuccessful congressional campaign.
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