What to Know
Paterson Mayor Joey Torres pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy charges on Friday.
Torres had been accused of ordering city workers to do construction at a relative’s would-be beer store on city time.
Torres could spend up to 5 years in prison and will have to pay restitution, resign as mayor and never seek public office again.
Paterson Mayor Jose "Joey" Torres has pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in a corruption case sparked by an I-Team investigation in 2016.
Torres will spend up to five years behind bars, resign as mayor and pay restitution to the city of Paterson as part of a plea deal with prosecutors over the scheme to steal from taxpayers by ordering city workers to do construction on a relative's would-be beer business.
As part of the plea deal -- which was accepted hours after Paterson Department of Public Works employees caught on camera doing work for Torres' family also accepted plea deals and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors -- Torres also agreed to never again seek a public office.
After the hearing, Torres, a Democrat, only said "I'm sorry" to reporters outside the courtroom. He'll be back in court on Monday, when a judge is expected to ensure his removal from office.
Councilwoman Ruby Cotton is expected to take over as acting mayor following Torres' removal.
New Jersey Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino, whose office prosecuted the case, said that hopefully the guilty plea will allow Paterson residents to move on.
"This mayor, Joey Torres, is blatantly corrupt and despite all of the righteous indignation, the denials and the promises of vindication, today he admitted that he’s corrupt," Porrino said.
He added, "We have zero tolerance for corruption in the state of New Jersey."
Torres was arrested in March, accused of using city workers to do private construction work at a relative's planned beer business, all the while billing taxpayers.
Torres initially denied any wrongdoing and vowed to fight the charges. The mayor's arrest came after a series of I-Team stories that appeared to show city employees doing private jobs for him, from washing his scooter and building bookshelves to doing construction at his nephew's would-be beer business.
When the I-Team caught up with him before the first report in March 2016, Torres said in an email no employees had ever done private jobs for him while on overtime. "Please be advised that at no time has any city employee, on city time, or overtime, or paid with taxpayer dollars, ever performed work for me at my home, or anywhere else," he wrote.
Videos and overtime records show the workers doing construction at the site while on the clock for the city. They also show workers at the mayor's home but criminal charges to date are only for overtime billed at the beer business location.
Three Department of Public Works supervisors -- Timothy Hanlon, Joseph Mania and Imad Mowases -- were also charged in the scheme. All three will lose their jobs after pleading guilty, but none will face prison time.