TRENTON – A man who served as personal driver to former Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas pleaded guilty today in connection with a scheme involving Vas to rig a public housing lottery, Attorney General Paula T. Dow and Criminal Justice Director Stephen J. Taylor announced.
According to Taylor, Anthony S. Jones, 50, of Perth Amboy, pleaded guilty to a criminal accusation charging him with third-degree falsifying or tampering with records before Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci Jr. in Monmouth County. Jones admitted that he falsified personal financial information that he submitted in order to qualify to buy an affordable two-family home on Market Street in Perth Amboy through the Perth Amboy Home Program. Previously, Vas admitted that he rigged the public lottery for the home so that Jones won the opportunity to buy it. Jones was originally indicted with Vas on March 11, 2009.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Jones be sentenced to a term of probation. He must forfeit the home, which the city will sell to another HUD-qualified buyer, and he must pay back a sum of rent, to be determined, that he collected by leasing one unit of the duplex home. He must pay $2,000 to the City of Perth Amboy for attorneys’ fees and closing costs it incurred in selling him the home. He must forfeit his job with the City of Perth Amboy and will be permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
“Jones conspired with Mayor Vas in a scheme to manipulate the housing lottery and cheat the many other families who were denied a chance to purchase an affordable home,” said Dow. “This was a case of shameless cronyism and abuse of power.”
“We now have taken guilty pleas from former Mayor Vas and all of his co-defendants in two indictments,” said Taylor. “These convictions are a tribute to the exemplary work of the members of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau who investigated and prosecuted these crimes.”
Mellaci scheduled Jones to be sentenced on Jan. 6, 2012.
The investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau revealed that, in connection with the housing lottery, Vas arranged for a co-conspirator, not named in the indictment, to conceal a folded index card bearing Jones’ name and pretend to randomly draw it as the winner from among 40 participants. As a result, Jones was able to purchase the low-income housing, which was made available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development New Construction First Time Home Buyers Program. Jones paid $129,800 for the home and received $2,000 in subsidized closing costs from the city.
On Nov. 18, 2010, Vas, 56, pleaded guilty to corruption charges, including charges that he rigged the housing lottery for Jones, solicited an illicit payment of $58,000 from a city vendor, and illegally funneled money into his congressional campaign via straw donors to evade campaign funding and reporting rules. His longtime aide Melvin Ramos also pleaded guilty to corruption charges in connection with the illicit $58,000 payment and campaign funding scheme. On April 15, Mellaci sentenced Vas to eight years in prison, including five years of parole ineligibility, and sentenced Ramos to seven years in prison.
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