The FBI raid on the Union City municipal building last week is apparently connected to the March 2012 indictment of Bryant Venegas, a local contractor who was accused earlier this year of attempting to bribe a city official to obtain construction approvals, a source with knowledge of both cases has said.
According to the source, the files seized last week were some of the same files from the city’s Community Development Agency (CDA) that were subpoenaed as part of the investigation leading to Venegas’ indictment. Venegas pleaded guilty to the charges last month.
Mark Albiez, a spokesman for Mayor Brian Stack, would not comment on whether the two incidents are related. He said last week that city hall is cooperating fully with the FBI investigation.
Sources and published reports have speculated that the raid was related to investigations of alleged misappropriation of federal funds inside the office, where city officials award Community Block Grants to specific contractors. Agents confiscated around four boxes of files from the CDA office.
The CDA distributes federal blocks grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which can be used for a wide variety of infrastructural improvement projects, from housing to sidewalk improvements.
The director of Union City’s CDA office, Kennedy Ng, could not be reached for comment.
“Obviously as the mayor, if someone has done something wrong, I’m the first one that wants to know.” – Mayor Brian Stack
Mayor Stack did confirm that the agents’ warrants were to search the CDA office, but denied any knowledge as to what specifically they were searching for.
“We’re fully cooperating with the FBI investigation,” Stack told reporters. “The warrant was for all kinds of different material related to a number of projects.”
However, a source indicated that the investigation was centered on the activities of one person working in the CDA office. Stack said that if this were the case, he would want to be the first to know.
“Obviously as the mayor, if someone has done something wrong, I’m the first one that wants to know,” Stack said.
FBI spokeswoman Barbara Woodruff would not confirm whether the two raids were connected, but former Union City deputy police chief and Stack critic Joseph Blaettler did confirm that he had been in contact with the FBI since early 2012 regarding contracts awarded by the CDA using funding from HUD.
“There were a number of contracts regarding certain properties which I deemed questionable, and I was in contact with HUD about those,” said Blaettler, a private investigator.
However, Blaettler would not confirm that he was behind the tip which led to last week’s raids.