Former South Amboy Official Pleads To Federal Election Fraud Charge

NEWARK – Thomas J. O’Leary, the former executive director of the South Amboy Housing Authority, admitted his role in a scheme to funnel illegal campaign contributions to the Democratic primary election campaign of Joseph Vas for U.S. Congress in 2006, as well as one count of evading taxes, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

O’Leary, 50, of South Amboy, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Freda L. Wolfson in Trenton federal court to charges of conspiracy to defraud the Federal Election Commission arising from his participation in a scheme to funnel thousands of dollars through straw contributors to Vas’ campaign, and to one count of tax evasion.

According to the Indictment and Information to which O’Leary pleaded guilty and statements made in court: O’Leary admitted he participated in an alleged scheme with co-defendant Francis X. Gartland, an insurance broker based in Towson, Md., to use “straw” or “conduit” contributors to make contributions to the 2005-2006 Vas congressional campaign for the 13th Congressional District.

Gartland, through his various companies, was the insurance broker of record for the City of Perth Amboy and the Perth Amboy Board of Education. Gartland allegedly received thousands of dollars in commissions for those representations and allegedly split a portion of the commissions with O’Leary. The alleged purpose of the straw contributions to Vas, then the mayor of Perth Amboy and a New Jersey state assemblyman, was to ensure that Gartland maintained the lucrative insurance brokerage representations with the City of Perth Amboy and the Perth Amboy Board of Education.

O’Leary acknowledged that he recruited five straw contributors to contribute $2,000 each to Vas’ federal campaign committee. He reimbursed the straw contributors by cash or check with funds allegedly provided by Gartland. Straw contributions are prohibited by the Federal Election Campaign Act. O’Leary also admitted that for tax year 2006, he evaded the assessment of thousands of dollars of federal income tax by concealing income and other benefits that he allegedly received from Gartland.

The conspiracy charge to which O’Leary pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The tax evasion charge carries a maximum statutory penalty of five years in prison and a $100,000 fine, with an alternative fine of $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for June 8, 2012.

Vas and Melvin Ramos, Vas’ former mayoral aide and the treasurer of Vas’ campaign, were convicted on Oct. 8, 2010, following a jury trial, of charges of mail fraud, fraud and misapplication of funds, false statements, and federal election crimes. Vas and Ramos were sentenced to 78 and 37 months in prison, respectively, by U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton on April 12, 2011. In addition to the prison terms, Wigenton sentenced Vas and Ramos to three years of supervised release and ordered them to pay $90,000 in restitution to Perth Amboy. Vas was also ordered to pay a $73,200 fine.

The federal election crime charges pertaining to Gartland involving O’Leary are pending before Wolfson. Gartland is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

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