By VIRGINIA McCABE
The former deputy mayor of public works in Newark, N.J. was charged with official misconduct after a federal grand jury reviewed the FBI’s undercover investigation.
A five-count Indictment named Ronald Salahuddin,59, with corruptly using his official position and influence to advance the business and financial interests of his business partner and himself in connection with City of Newark demolition business, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Also named in the Indictment is Sonnie L. Cooper,67, owner and president of S. Cooper Brothers Trucking, Inc. (“Cooper Trucking”), a company that performed demolition, waste-hauling and street sweeping for the municipal government and private companies.
The Indictment describes a scheme in which Salahuddin conspired with Cooper and others from July 2006 to December 2007 to have Salahuddin use his office to steer demolition contracts in Newark to an individual, who was cooperating with federal authorities.
“The conduct alleged in the Indictment shows a brazen effort by Salahuddin to corrupt his city office for his own personal financial gain and to benefit his business partner,” said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
The Indictment further details Salahuddin’s plan to exclude other contractors from receiving Newark demolition work in order to “reciprocate” on the arrangement with the CW.
The Indictment further charges that Salahuddin received approximately $45,000 from Cooper between May and August 2007, including a $5,000 check that was funded from proceeds of a check for demolition work that Cooper had received from the CW. The Indictment alleges that Salahuddin caused that $5,000 check to be deposited into his own bank account on July 23, 2007
The Indictment further alleges that Salahuddin represented that contributions by the CW to organizations supported by City of Newark officials, including Salahuddin, would enable the CW to receive more demolition business. The Indictment specifically alleges that in December 2006 Salahuddin accepted a $5,000 check to a charitable organization supported by City of Newark officials from the CW and later encouraged the CW to use nominees to structure the CW’s political contributions in Newark.
Count One charges both defendants with conspiracy to obstruct commerce by extortion under color of official right, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Count Two charges both defendants with attempt to obstruct commerce by extortion under color of official right, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Counts Three, Four and Five charge one or both defendants with soliciting, accepting and agreeing to accept things of value to influence and reward a local government agent, each count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.