|TRENTON – Attorney General Jeffrey S. Chiesa announced that a man who served as personal driver to former Perth Amboy Mayor Joseph Vas was sentenced today in connection with a scheme involving Vas to rig a public housing lottery.
Anthony S. Jones, 51, of Perth Amboy, was sentenced to five years of probation by Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mellaci Jr. in Monmouth County. Jones pleaded guilty on Aug. 18, 2011 to a criminal accusation charging him with third-degree falsifying or tampering with records. In pleading guilty, he admitted that he falsified personal financial information that he submitted in order to qualify to buy an affordable two-family home on Market Street in Perth Amboy through the Perth Amboy Home Program. Previously, Vas admitted that he rigged the public lottery for the home so that Jones won the opportunity to buy it. Jones forfeited his job with the city and is permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
Jones was ordered, as a condition of probation, to refrain from entering the property, which he has vacated, to perform 100 hours of community service, and to pay various amounts as restitution related to his illegal acquisition of the property. The home is currently in foreclosure. Jones was ordered to pay $147,600, representing principal and interest on a second mortgage which secures HUD grant funds that were provided to make the property affordable housing. He must pay $2,000 to reimburse the City of Perth Amboy for closing costs it paid when Jones took title to the property. He must pay the state $127,123, representing rent he collected by leasing the second unit of the property. Finally, he must pay $6,020 in rent for his occupancy of one unit of the property for four months after he was supposed to have vacated the property. Jones entered a consent judgment to pay all of those amounts.
Deputy Attorney General Anthony A. Picione, Deputy Chief of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, represented the state at the sentencing. Jones was indicted with Vas on March 11, 2009. Vas was sentenced in November 2010 to eight years in prison, including five years of parole ineligibility, in connection with two indictments obtained by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
“This defendant became part of a culture of corruption that surrounded Mayor Vas, in which Vas and certain of his cronies believed that they were above the law and could exploit their public positions for personal gain,” said Attorney General Chiesa. “Nobody is above the law, as we have demonstrated through our successful prosecution of Vas and his co-defendants.”
“Jones is the last to be sentenced of the defendants we charged with Joseph Vas,” said Director Stephen J. Taylor of the Division of Criminal Justice. “This ends a troubling chapter in the history of the City of Perth Amboy.”
The investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau revealed that, in connection with the housing lottery, Vas arranged for a co-conspirator, not named in the indictment, to conceal a folded index card bearing Jones’ name and pretend to randomly draw it as the winner from among 40 participants. As a result, Jones was able to purchase the low-income housing, which was made available through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development New Construction First Time Home Buyers Program. Jones paid $129,800 for the home and received $2,000 in subsidized closing costs from the city.
On Nov. 18, 2010, Vas, 57, of Perth Amboy, pleaded guilty to corruption charges, including charges that he rigged the housing lottery for Jones, solicited an illicit payment of $58,000 from a city vendor, and illegally funneled money into his congressional campaign via straw donors to evade campaign funding and reporting rules. His longtime aide Melvin Ramos, 56, also pleaded guilty to corruption charges in connection with the illicit $58,000 payment and campaign funding scheme. On April 15, 2011, Judge Mellaci sentenced Vas to eight years in prison, including five years without possibility of parole, and sentenced Ramos to seven years in prison.
The investigation was conducted by former Deputy Attorney General Dianne C. DiGiamber Deal, Sgt. Dino Dettorre and Detective Benjamin Kukis. They were assisted by Lt. Daniel O'Brien, Sgt. Robert McGrath, Detective Lee Bailey, Detective Melissa Calkin, Detective Lisa Cawley, Detective Shaun Egan, Detective Kiersten Pentony, Lt. Robert Stemmer and Civil Investigator Joseph Salvatore. Deputy Attorney General Pearl Minato, former Deputy Attorney General Asha Vaghela and former Assistant Attorney General Lewis Korngut also worked on the case. They were supervised by Assistant Attorney General Boris Moczula, Deputy Director of the Division of Criminal Justice, and Deputy Attorney General Christine Hoffman, Chief of the Corruption Bureau.
Attorney General Chiesa and Director Taylor noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a toll-free Corruption Tipline for the public to report corruption and other illegal activities: 1-866-TIPS-4CJ. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division Web site at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing. All information received through the Tipline or Web page will remain confidential.