Former Newark Housing Authority (NHA) director of information technology Venancio Diaz admitted yesterday to embezzling NHA funds to buy electronic devices for resale, U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger announced today.
According to Sellinger’s release, Diaz bought a total of 1,509 cell phones, tablets, and other similar electronic devices between 2013 and 2021 that he activated for a short period on the NHA’s account before reselling them. In total, Diaz embezzled $594,425 for his personal use.
Theft of an agency receiving federal funds carries a maximum sentence of ten years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000 or twice the amount embezzled, whichever is greater (which in this case is the latter); Diaz’s sentencing is scheduled for August 4.
Diaz is the latest in a series of Newark officials charged by federal prosecutors over the last few months.
Earlier this month, Newark West Ward Councilman Joseph McCallum pleaded guilty to accepting bribes and kickbacks from developers, contracting companies, and other businesses in exchange for access and aid obtaining public contracts as part of a scheme to defraud Newark and the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation, now known as Invest Newark!
Former Assemblyman Carmelo Garcia (D-Hoboken), who had served as director of the Newark Department of Economic and Housing Development, was indicted last October for his role in a bribery scheme.