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Former Passaic Mayor Alex Blanco was sentenced to 27 months in prison Tuesday
He pleaded guilty last September to federal bribery charges
Blanco becomes at least the third Passaic mayor to plead guilty or be convicted of a federal crime in the last 25 years
Former Passaic mayor Alex Blanco has been sentenced to 27 months in a federal bribery case that forced him to resign from office last fall.
Blanco, 44, pleaded guilty last September to federal bribery charges after admitting to taking $110,000 from two unnamed developers for an affordable housing project in 2011.
As part of the plea deal, he'll also have to pay restitution of $110,000.
Blanco will start his sentence in a few weeks, according to prosecutors. He'll be able to return home in the meantime.
Passaic Mayor Pleads Guilty to Federal Bribery Charges
"This case demonstrates that public officials who exploit their office for personal gain can expect to be thoroughly investigated and aggressively prosecuted," Acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick said in a statement.
The U.S. Attorney's office said Blanco, a podiatrist who was first elected in 2008, approached developers about a project for low-income housing on Paulison Avenue in 2011 and told them they would have to give him a sizeable payment for the project to go forward.
Then, after the city released $216,4000 in federal Department of Housing and Urban Development money for the project, prosecutors said that Blanco arranged another meeting with the developers and accepted $65,000 in bank checks. A few days later he took another $40,000 in cash. He received the final $5,000 several months later.
Prosecutors said that most of the money Blanco took came out of HUD money provided to the developers. U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman said that Blanco's behavior "demonstrates aggressive and appalling greed."
"By soliciting these payments from developers, he took for himself federal money that was intended to help provide housing for the city's poorest residents," Fishman said. "We expect our public officials to behave differently."
As part of the plea agreement, Blanco will pay $110,000 in restitution.
He won office on a platform of fighting corruption after his predecessor Samuel Rivera was convicted of taking bribes in 2008 and made history as the first Dominican-American mayor elected in the U.S. Yet Blanco now becomes the third Passaic mayor in the last 25 years to be convicted of, or plead guilty to, a federal crime.
Former Mayor Joseph Lipari was found guilty of extortion and income tax evasion in 1992.
The community of 70,000 people bills itself as the fastest-growing city in New Jersey.