What to Know
- Paterson Mayor Joey Torres and three city workers were hit with corruption charges Tuesday
- Torres has been the subject of months of I-Team reporting on city workers allegedly doing private jobs for him
- Torres said in a statement, "I fully intend to vigorously defend myself against these allegations"
Paterson Mayor Joey Torres and three employees of the city's public works department were hit with state corruption-related charges Tuesday, hours after the I-Team first reported they would be indicted.
The mayor of New Jersey's third-largest city was the subject of months of I-Team reporting on municipal workers being paid to do private jobs for him and his relatives.
"This is a case of old-school public corruption and abuse of power," Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said at a news conference announcing the charges Tuesday. "Mayor Torres allegedly treated city workers like his personal handymen, treated taxpayer dollars like his own."
The six-count indictment unsealed Tuesday include charges of conspiracy, official misconduct and tampering with public records against Torres and three workers, Joseph Mania, 51; Timothy Hanlon, 30; and Imad Elmowaswes, 52.
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Shortly after the charges were announced, Torres stood next to his executive assistant on the steps of City Hall as she read from a prepared statement attributed to him.
"I am extremely disappointed and surprised that the Attorney General has elected to pursue this case and file these charges against me today," the statement said.
It went on to say that Torres and his attorneys had been speaking with the attorney general's office and "were in the process of addressing certain issues they raised when we were notified at the last possible moment that the state would be unsealing an indictment today."
"I fully intend to vigorously defend myself against these allegations, and I look forward to the opportunity to present all of the facts in a court of law," Torres' statement said. "I am confident when the full story is told, I will be vindicated."
First elected to Paterson's city council in 1990, Torres became mayor in 2002 and was re-elected in 2006. The Democrat lost a bid for a third term in 2010 but re-gained his seat in 2014.
Through much of 2016, Torres refused to answer questions about 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.
The I-Team later obtained records that seem to show that at least eight employees had indeed been earning overtime during the same periods they were seen on camera doing private work at the mayor's home and the planned beer business. But the mayor never responded to requests for further explanation.
Torres is the second prominent New Jersey mayor to face criminal charges in the last four months. In an unrelated case, Passaic Mayor Alex Blanco pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges on Nov. 18 and resigned from office.