Two suspended municipal employees in Newark are in serious trouble for allegedly soliciting and accepting bribes from an after-hours nightclub owner. Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said the two City of Newark employees were charged in separate indictments.
The two indictments stem from investigations by the State Police Official Corruption Bureau and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, which obtained separate indictments charging the men with second-degree counts of bribery and official misconduct:
Tajji Williams, 41, of Newark, a city code enforcement officer, allegedly solicited a $5,000 bribe from the man operating the after-hours social club and accepted payments of $500 on three occasions in late 2016, for a total of $1,500.
Williams allegedly promised the man in return that he would arrange advance notice of law enforcement activity and priority in the filing and granting of building permits.
The man had faced resistance from the city and city police about the social club. The club operator notified the State Police and cooperated in the investigation.
Qaadir Royal, 36, of Newark, a clerk in the city code enforcement office, allegedly solicited and accepted a bribe of $1,000 from the operator of the after-hours social club in December 2016.
In return, Royal allegedly used his access to city databases to alter the man’s certificate of occupancy for the building he rented so that the certificate of occupancy falsely reflected that the man was permitted to operate a retail establishment, when he was not.
Royal also is charged with third-degree tampering with public records.
The second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, including a mandatory minimum term of five years of parole ineligibility. Both men are suspended from their city jobs as a result of the investigations.
“When public employees like Williams and Royal allegedly take bribes from people seeking to evade the rules or garner special treatment, good government and public trust are completely undermined,” said Porrino. “We will aggressively prosecute government employees who crookedly use their positions for personal gain.”
“I commend the individual who brought these cases to our attention,” said Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We count on members of the public to report official corruption and we stand ready to diligently investigate any leads. Tipsters can receive a reward of up to $25,000 if they provide us with information leading to a conviction.”
“Although there is great disparity in the many positions of public employment, we are all rightly held to a higher standard,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “These types of crimes, like the alleged misconduct of Williams and Royal, can erode the public’s trust in government, which is why these indictments not only root out the corrupt, but they also serve as a dire warning to those who would abuse their positions.”
Although Williams and Royal worked in the same city office, the alleged conduct of Williams with respect to the club operator is distinct from the alleged conduct of Royal, and the two cases are being prosecuted separately with two indictments.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony Robinson presented the indictments to the state grand jury for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Anthony Picione. Attorney General Porrino commended the detectives who conducted the investigations for the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau North Unit, as well as the attorneys in the Division of Criminal Justice.
The second-degree charges in the indictments against Williams and Royal each carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, including a mandatory five-year period of parole ineligibility, and a fine of up to $150,000. The third-degree charge against Royal carries a sentence of three to five years in prison, including a mandatory two-year period of parole ineligibility, and a fine of up to $15,000.
The indictments are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictments were handed up to Superior Court Judge Peter E. Warshaw in Mercer County, who assigned each of the cases to Essex County, where Williams and Royal will be ordered to appear in court for arraignment at a later date.
Attorney General Porrino and Director Honig noted that individuals who report public corruption may be able to receive up to a $25,000 reward. The Division of Criminal Justice has a toll-free tip line 866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to confidentially report public corruption. Information on the Public Corruption Reward Program is posted at this link: www.nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward-info.html
The deadline for providing tips and potentially qualifying for a reward under the Public Corruption Reward Program is November 15.
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