A federal jury has found Mayor Tony F. Mack of Trenton, N.J., guilty of six charges ranging from extortion and bribery to fraud. Mack's brother was also convicted of conspiracy and bribery charges in the case, which involved plans for a parking garage.
The Justice Department announced the jury's ruling Friday evening. In a news release about the verdict, U.S. Attorney Fishman said that Mack and his brother, Ralphiel, had schemed to use the influence of the mayor's office to extract money in exchange for easing development on city-owned land. Their trial lasted five weeks.
"The jury's verdict solidly affirms what we first charged more than a year ago – that Tony Mack, with the helping hands of his brother and their cohorts, sold the mayor's office and sold out the people of Trenton," Fishman said Friday.
Both of the Macks were found guilty of "conspiracy to obstruct and affect interstate commerce" under official right and extortion, along with accepting bribes. The mayor was also convicted of two counts of wire fraud and one of mail fraud.
Another defendant, Joseph A. Giorgianni, had previously pleaded guilty to having a role in the scheme, in addition to weapons and drugs charges. A Trenton city employee named Charles Hall also pleaded guilty in the case.
Investigators say the Macks, Giorgianni, and Hall took measures to insulate the mayor from possible implication, even using the code phrase "Uncle Remus" to discuss bribes. They were eventually undone by their dealings with two cooperating witnesses, the Justice Department says.
From the news release:
"To conceal the corrupt arrangement, the defendants avoided discussing matters related to the scheme over the telephone. When those matters were discussed, they used code words and aliases. One such code word was 'Uncle Remus,' which both Giorgianni and Hall regularly used to communicate to Mayor Mack that a corrupt payment had been received. For example, on Oct. 29, 2011, Giorgianni telephoned Hall and informed him that Giorgianni had to 'see Mayor Mack and that 'I got Uncle Remus for him,' meaning a corrupt cash payment that Giorgianni had received from CW-1 two days earlier."
Our thanks to NPR's Carrie Johnson for sending the Justice Department release our way. As we reported in 2012, when Mack was arrested on the charges, he allegedly was recorded talking about taking bribes.
And as Carrie reported back then, both Mack and his brother were under suspicion:
"Authorities say the mayor's brother, the head football coach at Trenton Central High School, acted as a middleman between the mayor and a political supporter.
"The FBI says it recovered $2,500 in the home of the mayor's brother, with serial numbers it traced to a bribe."