NJ Housing Official Arrested in Worker Extortion

John Kennell allegedly extorted cash payments from contract workers for, among other things, authorizing paid vacation days, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday

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    The director of operations for the North Bergen Housing Authority was arrested Wednesday morning by FBI agents for allegedly extorting contract employees by threatening to fire them if they didn't pay him, law enforcement officials said.

    John Kennell, 49, allegedly extorted cash payments from six employees of a company which provided repair and ground-maintenance services to the township's Housing Authority, according to a criminal complaint filed Wednesday. Kennell, who had hiring and firing authority over the workers, allegedly threatened to fire them unless they paid him $10 to $20 from their weekly paychecks, the complaint said.

    The criminal complaint also alleges that Kennell accepted payments ranging from $100 to $400 in exchange for helping authorize paid vacation days by saying they were doing work for the Housing Authority when, in fact,  they were traveling outside the United States.

    Kennell's attorney information was not immediately available.

    If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.

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