Anselmo Crisonino, 53, of Bayonne, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Peter Sheridan in Trenton federal court to four counts, including one of accepting bribe payments of approximately $65,000 from Joseph Arrigo, the owner of a contracting company in Bayonne, according to a press release issued by the United States Attorney’s Office of the District of New Jersey.
Crisonino also pled guilty to one count of theft and conversion of federal funds ($422,360), one count of conducting an illegal gambling business, and one count of submitting a false tax return for tax year 2011, the release further stated.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
The CBDCD received funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under a federal program that provided grants up to $20,000 to low-income families to rehabilitate their homes and to repair conditions affecting health and safety, accessibility, energy efficiency, or code compliance. The CBDCD also provided these HUD funds under the same federal program to nonprofit organizations. Crisonino was responsible for reviewing applications and awarding these funds to qualified applicants.
In September 2010, Crisonino solicited cash bribe payments from Arrigo in exchange for Crisonino’s assistance in awarding HUD grant funds from the CBDCD to Arrigo as the owner of Shadow Contracting LLC, the release said. From September 2010 to February 2013, Crisonino received cash payments from Arrigo of approximately $65,000 in exchange for Crisonino’s assistance in awarding HUD grant funds from the CBDCD to Arrigo of approximately $426,000.
Between September 2010 and February 2013, Crisonino awarded HUD grant funds to several contractors and plumbers in Bayonne through the CBDCD, despite the fact that Crisonino knew that the submitted bids for the projects were fraudulent and were the result of collusion by the contractors and plumbers, according to the press release.
Crisonino also approved change orders on projects where little to no legitimate work had been done by the contractors and plumbers at the job sites, the press release added. The approved change orders allowed the CBDCD to disperse additional HUD grant funds to the projects that had already reached the maximum $20,000 grant allotment.
Crisonino also pled guilty to conducting an illegal gambling business in northern New Jersey, the release said. The illegal gambling business was administered and managed through a website that Crisonino and others accessed through usernames and passwords.
According to the press release, he admitted making and subscribing a U.S. Individual Tax Return, Form 1040, for tax year 2011 filed with the IRS, which he did not believe to be true and correct as to every material matter, including approximately $65,000 in unreported income from the bribe payments.
The bribery and theft of government funds, charges to which Crisonino pleaded guilty, are each punishable by a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison. The charge of conducting an illegal gambling business is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. The charge of filing a false tax return is punishable by a maximum potential penalty of three years in prison. All four charges are also punishable by a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for June 4.
Mayor Smith responds to guilty plea
“As a former member of law enforcement, I believe we have a solemn responsibility to uphold the public trust,” said Mayor Mark Smith upon learning of the development. “Since taking office in 2008, I have been clear and consistent in the belief that if that public trust is violated, we must take swift and decisive actions to not only ensure that justice is done but to put in place safeguards so that it cannot happen again. We have no greater responsibility than to protect the public trust and to preserve taxpayer dollars.”
Candidate Davis releases statement
One of Smith’s mayoral challengers, James Davis, criticized the mayor, pointing out that Crisonino’s actions took place on the mayor’s watch.
As a police officer assigned to the special task force which investigated the corruption, Davis was involved in the investigation and arrest of Crisonino.
“This was one of the motivating factors that convinced me to run for mayor,” Davis said. “It is always upsetting to discover that our local officials are involved in illegal actions.”
Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.