North Bergen’s municipal election has been over for two months, but Mayor Nicholas Sacco is still dishing out flak against his former challenger, Larry Wainstein, over multiple ongoing lawsuits against the township from Wainstein’s camp.
Based on recent court documents, Sacco doubled down on accusations that ex-convict Joe Mocco is Wainstein’s informal campaign manager, a claim which Wainstein denied.
Mocco, a former township business administrator, served a prison sentence after he was convicted of taking bribes to ignore illegal dumping of construction waste. He was also investigated for alleged election fraud during Hudson County’s 1976 primary elections.
During this year’s election season, Wainstein and his supporters filed highly-publicized lawsuits against North Bergen seeking to halt the North Bergen High School expansion, halt the North Bergen Liberty Generating power plant, and to be able to campaign on housing authority properties.
Sacco pointed to an affidavit written by Mario Blanch, Wainstein’s long-time attorney, as evidence that Wainstein and Mocco are still in cahoots.
Last month, Blanch filed motions to withdraw as legal counsel from three lawsuits from Wainstein’s camp, calling the cases “moot.” In the affidavit, he stated that he held conferences with Wainstein, Joe Mocco, a man named Ryan Young, and one of Wainstein’s running mates to discuss the future of pending litigation.
Sacco said that the affidavit was concrete evidence supporting his claims that Mocco has been pulling the strings behind Wainstein’s campaign and his politically-charged lawsuits over the years.
“In 2015, we saw Joe Mocco very prominently, but Larry Wainstein denied he was a key player,” Sacco said. “We just put it out there, and people who knew Joe Mocco knew who he was, and they knew it to be true. Joe Mocco’s been on a frenzy with this administration since his firing in 1987.”
Sacco and his camp consistently claim that Mocco is allegedly entrenched in local politics for similar reasons as he was when he held his government position three decades ago.
Wainstein’s opponents have routinely used Wainstein’s decades-old association with Mocco as ammunition against Wainstein’s bid for the mayor’s seat.
Names were dropped
Mario Blanch, Wainstein’s lawyer, filed motions to withdraw as Wainstein’s counsel in multiple cases about a month ago. That document fueled Sacco’s most recent charge that Wainstein wasn’t transparent about his associates.
Blanch wrote that “on or about June 13, 2019,” Wainstein came to his office “accompanied by Mr. Joseph Mocco and Mr. Ryan Young to discuss various pending matters.” Blanch chose to have on record that Mocco and Young were discussing Wainstein’s legal matters with him.
When Mocco served as North Bergen’s town administrator, according to court documents he was among 10 men charged in the 1980s with accepting $5 million in annual bribes, in exchange for allowing companies to illegally dump construction debris in North Bergen.
Another case charged that political operatives steamed open mail-in ballots to alter votes during the 1976 primary elections, which was allegedly done in Mocco’s home. Mocco served a prison sentence, and hasn’t held any government positions or elected offices since.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a New Jersey man named Ryan Young pleaded guilty this year to a $50 million fraud scheme, in which he distributed millions of mailers indicating that recipients won money and other prizes in a sweepstakes. The mailers allegedly directed recipients to send delivery fees to fictitious entities. Recipients didn’t receive their nonexistent prizes.
“We said the organization was a criminal enterprise from the beginning,” Sacco alleged. “Look at who’s involved, it’s just one criminal after another. Rather than going off on tangents, we can show the fact that Joe Mocco and Ryan Young came into Mario Blanch’s office to keep the [Wainstein] cases going.”
No one’s riding off into the sunset
Sacco said that the lawsuits filed by Wainstein’s camp are political and said he saw no purpose in them after voters supported both the high school expansion and his electoral team by large margins.
“The school case is ongoing. The assumption would’ve been that the election’s over and people should keep going,” Sacco said, regarding the cases. “Why should our children be denied a new school and school system? What’s the purpose? The election’s over. If you wanted to raise an issue, we can understand that, but it didn’t work. We’re still spending taxpayers’ money fighting this corrupt group of people.”
In the past, Wainstein downplayed the fact that Mocco visited his campaign headquarters during election seasons, and stated that he visits only as a resident interested in his candidacy. Blanch’s claim that Mocco and Young met him to discuss relevant legal matters seems to suggest the two might be more closely tied to Wainstein than that.
Mocco, who is approaching his eighties and hasn’t held political office or any government job in over three decades, has never gone on record to discuss any involvement in North Bergen politics.
At press time, Larry Wainstein did not respond by phone or email to requests for comment.