Th U.S. Attorney’s office today announced the indictment of former Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia (D-Hoboken) for his role in a bribery scheme, eleven months after federal prosecutors first first charged him.
Garcia and former Springfield Board of Education President Irwin Sablosky were allegedly part of a conspiracy related to the ex-legislator’s role as director of the Newark Department of Economic and Housing Development.
Garcia is accused of taking cash payments from Sablosky and his partner in a Newark pawn shop and check cashing business, Frank Valvano, in a bid to help the two secure redevelopment agreements with the city.
Sablosky and Valvano sought to purchase various city-owned properties.
In addition to cash, Garcia allegedly received jewelry from the pawn shop, William Rich and Sons.
The former Hudson County lawmaker, along with Sablosky and Valvano, were charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud, 17 counts of wire fraud, and four counts of violation of the Travel Act, by using interstate facilities to facilitate bribery. They face a maximum of 75 years in prison, although realistically even a guilty verdict wouldn’t net that kind of sentence.
The New Jersey Globe reported in October 2020 that Garcia was the co-conspirator in a bribery and kickback scheme involving Newark city councilman Joseph McCallum and real estate investor Malik A. Frederick
According to federal prosecutors, phone records and text messages obtained by law enforcement document extensive communications among the three and others about the scheme, “including text messages in which Garcia arranged to personally collect cash provided by Valvano and Sablosky.”
In June 2018, prosecutors claim Garcia received an envelope with $25,000 in cash given to him by Valvano through an intermediary in the restroom of a Newark restaurant. Five days later, Newark approved the designation of Valvano and Sablosky as the developers of two properties through limited liability companies they owned.
The government alleges that Sablosky sent a text message to Valvano on April 13, 2019 about a meeting he had with Garcia the day before and giving the former assemblyman an extra $5,000.
Sablosky said that Garcia “showed up [at] 5pm last night” to discuss another “RDA” he and Valvano wanted to buy to from the city, prosecutors said.
“Any mention of $$,” Valvano texted.
Sablosky responded, “He [Garcia] didn’t just come to visit!! Lol. He got another 5,” referring to the $5,000 payment. Sablosky also told Valvano, “When you get back we have to add everything and sit down with him [Garcia]. I want to get these RDAs through before we start rocking the boat.”
Garcia, 46, served as the executive vice president of the Newark Community and Economic Development Corporation from 2016 to 2017, and as Newark’s Deputy Mayor for Economic Development from 2017 to 2018.
Garcia served as head of the Hoboken Housing Authority until battling with then-Mayor Dawn Zimmer in 2014. He was fired by the commissioners.
Hudson Democrats refused to back Garcia for re-election and he then lost a race for Hoboken city council. He was ousted from his Newark post in 2018.