Thomas Bertoli, a former union carpenter who became a top political strategist in Hudson County, pled guilty today to a single count of corrupt interference with the administration of Internal Revenue Service laws in a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
Assistant U.S. Attorney J. Fortier Imbert said the plea agreement carries a range of zero to eighteen months in prison, and an agreement that Bertoli would provide restitution to the IRS in the amount of $1,171,494. He could also face fines and supervised release of up to one year.
Bertoli admitted to not paying federal income taxes from 2009 to 2013, to falsely stating to an IRS agent that he was a construction worker, and to hiding the existence of his firm, Urban Logistics. He said he received payment from political organizations and campaigns, and from developers and construction firms for expediting services.
But Bertoli’s attorney, Jack Arsenault, pushed back on the relevance of the prosecutor’s
“The check cashing would certainly be relevant,” Imbert said.
“We have to agree to disagree,” Arsenault said.
Imbert said the government could prove their case “beyond a reasonable doubt” if they went to trial. Arsenault agreed.
U.S. District Court Judge Brian Martinotti questioned Bertoli in detail about his understanding of the plea agreement.
“I totally understand it, your honor,” Bertoli said.
Bertoli acknowledged that the final word on sentencing belongs to Martinotti, who has the latitude sentence him to anywhere from no prison time to a three-year maximum. But Martinotti said that if he does not accept the plea, Bertoli would have the option of retracting his plea.
Martinotti set sentencing for February 7, 2023.
Imbert said that Bertoli made roughly $917,000 at Urban Logistics and owed $370,025 in taxes there in 2015. He also owned $195,889 for unpaid taxes between 2009 and 2013.
The government did not indicate any cooperation agreements beyond his guilty plea to a single tax-related charge. The New Jersey Globe has confirmed that.
Bertoli had previously entered a not guilty plea and his trial, originally scheduled to begin in May, had been adjourned late last year.
The plea ends an eight-year investigation into Bertoli by the Justice Department, who charged him with tax evasion, corrupt interference with administration of IRS laws, and failure to file a tax return in June 2020. He was accused of not paying taxes between 2009 and 2012 and evading the assessment of taxes for 2014.
The complaint alleged that Bertoli “obtained hundreds of thousands of dollars in gross receipts for calendar years 2009 to 2016. Bertoli had not, as of April 18, 2017, filed federal tax returns or paid any of the taxes due, other than a $5,000 nominal payment in September 2014, for those years.”
“Tom Bertoli made efforts to resolve this tax case in 2017 and 2018 by accepting responsibility for his conduct. Over the following several years, an intensive investigation was conducted into the life of Tom Bertoli. This effort resulted in an indictment alleging the same earlier tax offenses,” said Arsenault. “Today, Tom accepted responsibility for the conduct forming the basis of the offense and looks forward to putting this behind him and his family.”
Bertoli operated several businesses during that time period, the government said, including City Street Associates, and Urban Logistics. His political clients, including Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop and U.S. Senator Cory Booker.
“After a six year ordeal that included countless false accusations and unfair assumptions about Tom, today proved that this matter had absolutely nothing to do with politics or government all along. It’s unfortunate that Tom’s family had to endure this but now they will be able to officially close this chapter,” said Phil Swibinski, a spokesman for Fulop. “Tom has taken accountability for his actions and regrets what he did, and the positive here is that he can now start to move forward with a clean slate.”
Assembly Judiciary Committee Chairman Raj Mukherji (D-Jersey City) also issued a statement in support of Bertoli.
“Tommy is a brilliant political tactician, an incredible father and husband, and a great friend,” said Mukherji. “I know how remorseful he is for an avoidable situation in his dealing with the IRS, but I’m proud of him for accepting responsibility and allowing his family to move on from this years-long ordeal and focus on planning his second daughter’s wedding,”
The U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey had accused Bertoli of receiving payments from clients, “including payments from developers and construction firms for expediting services on real estate development and construction projects, primarily in Jersey City, New Jersey; and payments from political campaigns for political consulting services in New Jersey.”
Bertoli will remain free on bail until his sentencing.
This story was updated at 10:59 AM with comment from Fulop and at 3:53 PM with comment from Arsenault and Mukherji.