Federal prosecutors today charged former Assemblyman Willis Edwards (D-East Orange) with a 28-count indictment on charges of conspiracy, bribe-taking, money and property fraud, federal tax fraud, and making false statements to obtain a mortgage.
Edwards served in the State Assembly from 2002 to 2004. He is a former acting Orange business administrator.
The allegations are connected to a scheme where Edwards and Franklyn Ore formed a company, Urban Partners LLC. To funnel a stream of concealed kickbacks related to his post in Orange using cash provided by Edwards.
According to the indictment, Edwards took kickbacks related to a literacy program at the Orange Public Library funded by a U.DS. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant, and a “project for which an urban planning company located in Montclair, New Jersey, had received a one-year, $150,000 contract from Orange to provide professional economic planning services to analyze the conditions within the Central Orange Redevelopment Area”
Edwards is also accused of arranging for a planning company to hire Urban Planners after it was given a contract in Orange.
The U.S. Attorney’s office alleges that Edwards submitted fraudulent invoices from Urban Partners to Orange for services related to a YMCA project.
The former Essex County legislator was also charged in a plagiarism scheme and a graduate school payment scheme.
“From June 2015 to June 2016, Edwards duped Orange into making payments to a consultant, which were, at least in part, for academic papers that the consultant arranged to have written for Edwards. Edwards, who was enrolled in a graduate program at a university in New Jersey, plagiarized the papers that Orange paid for and passed them off as his own work,” the government claims.
Edwards also allegedly “engaged in a scheme to defraud Orange of $25,142 in payments to himself and University 1 related to Edwards’s graduate courses there and at another university in New Jersey through the use of a fraudulent approval memorandum.”
Ore pleaded guilty in January to an information charge related to the Literacy Program, the Redevelopment Project, and the YWCA Project. Timur Davis, the former Executive Director of the Orange Library, entered a guilty plea to an information charging an offense related to the Saturday Literacy Program and another HUD-funded program to replace an HVAC/Chiller unit at the Library in February.Wills Edwards indictment