Trenton Mayor Arrested On Corruption Charges

Trenton, N.J., Mayor Tony Mack has been arrested on corruption charges after a two year FBI sting operation. Prosecutors say the mayor, his brother and a top political supporter conspired to obstruct justice in connection with a parking garage project in the New Jersey state capital.

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The mayor of New Jersey's capital city faces corruption charges that could send him to prison for decades. The FBI arrested Tony Mack in Trenton today. Prosecutors accused the mayor, his brother and a top political supporter of an extortion scheme worth more than $100,000. Here's NPR's justice correspondent Carrie Johnson.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Federal agents had been trailing Tony Mack since September, 2010, just two months after he took the oath of office. Around 6:30 this morning, that trail ended at the front door of the mayor's house, where the FBI arrived to take him into custody. Leading the prosecution is U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.

PAUL FISHMAN: Time and again, we have seen public officials in New Jersey who are all too willing to sell their power and betray the public's trust.

JOHNSON: Fishman pointed out that Mack is the third New Jersey mayor he's charged in the last few months. And, he says, Mack allegedly had a lot of help. Starting with restaurant owner Joseph Giorgianni one of the mayor's closest political supporters. Michael Ward is the top FBI agent in New Jersey.

MICHAEL WARD: This investigation showed the mayor went to great lengths to insulate himself, using a convicted felon as his alleged bag man and his brother as the middleman who handled the money.

JOHNSON: Authorities say they unraveled the bribe plot using wiretaps, surveillance and secret informants. Two of those informants were paid or trying to work themselves out of criminal trouble. Mayor Mack is not seen or heard on most of their recordings, but Giorgianni is. In one, he's waxing on about the golden age of corruption and political patronage in New York's Tammany Hall. In another, Fishman says, he positions himself as close as possible to the source of power.

FISHMAN: Quote: "One thing about the Mack administration, when I say that, it's me and Tony. We're not greedy, we're corruptible."

JOHNSON: Giorgianni told the FBI the mayor was basically an honest man, interested in, quote, "good corruption." That apparently meant he tried to do good things in Trenton and collect a little bit of extra money along the way. Court papers say the men accepted seven bribe payments over the past year. The people handing over the cash said they wanted to build a downtown parking garage and they wanted the city land on the cheap. Those business people were actually working with the Justice Department, unbeknownst to Mack, Giorgianni and the mayor's brother.

Mark Davis, a lawyer for the mayor, says he's innocent and it's going to be, quote, "business as usual" at City Hall. At a news conference in July, Mack was pelted with questions about the corruption investigation.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Do you maintain you haven't violated the public trust?

MAYOR TONY MACK: Thank you very much. That goes without saying. Yes. Yes, I maintain that statement.

JOHNSON: The FBI charged Giorgianni with running an oxycodone ring from his sandwich shop at the same time he coordinated payments to the mayor. But authorities say Mayor Mack didn't play any role in the narcotics conspiracy. Prosecutors say they expect Mack to face trial next year. Carrie Johnson, NPR News, Washington.

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