– Attorney General Anne Milgram announced
that a Colombian national pleaded guilty today
to assisting suspended Department of Corrections
administrator Gerald T. Kennedy in a bid rigging
and kickback scheme involving hundreds of
thousands of dollars in state contracts.
to Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni,
Jasher Guerrero Ramos, 49, a Colombian national
who formerly lived in Elizabeth, pleaded guilty
to bribery, a second-degree crime, before
Superior Court Judge Ira E. Kreizman in Monmouth
County. The charge was contained in an Aug.
29, 2007 state grand jury indictment.
the plea agreement, the state will recommend
that Guerrero Ramos be sentenced to five years
in state prison. Deputy Attorney General Steven
J. Zweig took the guilty plea for the Division
of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Sentencing
is scheduled for Feb. 5.
Ramos must fully cooperate with the state
in its ongoing investigation and prosecution
of Kennedy and others. He will be barred from
doing business with any public agency in New
Jersey for a period of ten years, along with
any company in which he is a principal or
holds a substantial ownership interest.
Ramos fled the U.S. prior to being indicted.
He was arrested in June 2008 in Colombia on
a warrant obtained by the Division of Criminal
Justice. He was extradited to the U.S. in
July 2009 and turned over to DCJ detectives
by federal authorities. He is being held in
the Monmouth County Jail.
guilty plea of this defendant, following his
capture and extradition from Colombia, reflects
our resolve to see that every person responsible
for this corrupt scheme is brought to justice,”
said Attorney General Milgram.
Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau
obtained an indictment on April 2, 2008, charging
Kennedy, 47, of Red Bank, with steering $678,000
in state contracts between 2003 and 2005 to
three companies that were owned by friends.
As Assistant Director of the DOC Division
of Operations, in charge of the Capital Planning
& Construction Unit, Kennedy had control
over soliciting bids and selecting contractors
for small capital projects costing under $41,100.
allegedly steered 18 state contracts totaling
approximately $348,000 to Pro General Contracting
Inc., aka Pro Painting & General Contracting
Inc. Guerrero Ramos was listed in corporate
records as owner of Pro Painting. However,
the state’s investigation revealed that
Kennedy actually controlled the company. Kennedy
allegedly received more than $45,000 in kickbacks
on those contracts with the help of Guerrero
Ramos and another man, Ronald Hayes, who has
pleaded guilty in the scheme.
pleading guilty, Guerrero Ramos admitted that
he funneled cash back to Kennedy through Hayes
by writing checks to Hayes as if Hayes performed
work for Pro Painting, when he did not actually
perform any work for the company. The state’s
investigation revealed that Hayes received
checks totaling approximately $50,000 from
Pro Painting. In pleading guilty, Hayes admitted
he would keep just 5 to 10 percent of the
amount of each check and give the rest of
the money directly to Kennedy.
allegedly received more than $30,000 in kickbacks
on eight contracts totaling $170,000 that
he awarded to SBC Construction Inc., the company
of another friend, Alfred “Buddy”
Canale. Canale has also pleaded guilty.
addition, Kennedy allegedly steered $160,000
in contracts to a third company SteelGrey
LLC, which was owned by his friend Mark Stermer,
42, of Red Bank, who was indicted with him.
The charges against Kennedy and Stermer are
pending. A full list of charges can be found
with the April 3, 2008 press release at www.njpublicsafety.com.
The indictments are merely accusations and
the defendants are presumed innocent until
Kennedy was required to seek bids from at
least three pre-qualified contractors, he
frequently solicited bids exclusively from
the companies he and his friends controlled,
and he often allegedly dictated the amount
of each bid so he could award the contract
as he desired. The contracts were for masonry,
painting, "skirting" of a trailer,
and roofing repairs.
Department of Corrections reported suspected
irregularities in the bidding process on small
capital projects to the Division of Criminal
Justice in early 2006.
will continue to work closely with other governmental
agencies to investigate and prosecute any
allegations of criminal conduct involving
the public contracting process,” said
Director Gramiccioni. “Vigilance is
critical given the many millions of tax dollars
spent each year on government contracts.”
Attorneys General Steven J. Zweig and Pearl
Minato are prosecuting the case against Kennedy
and the other remaining defendants. The investigation
was conducted and coordinated by Lt. Keith
Lerner, Detective Paul Marfino and Deputy
Attorney General Zweig of the Division of
Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, assisted
by Senior Investigator Manuel Alfonso of the
Department of Corrections, Special Investigations
Division, who was sworn in as a special investigator
for the Division of Criminal Justice. Attorney
General Milgram thanked the U.S. Department
of Justice, the FBI, U.S. Immigration and
Customs Enforcement, the U.S. Marshals Service
and the Government of Colombia for their assistance
in capturing Guerrero Ramos and extraditing
him to the United States.
General Milgram noted that the Division of
Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau has established
a toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ.
The public can also log on to the Division’s
Web site www.njdcj.org
to confidentially report suspected wrongdoing.