NEWARK, NJ — A former high-ranking employee of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. was sentenced July 13 to 96 months in prison for accepting $956,948 in kickback payments for his and the former executive director’s assistance in awarding work to contractors, acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced.
Donald Bernard Sr., 69, of West Orange previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose Linares to Counts 9 and 10 of a 20-count indictment returned in December 2014, charging him with the use of interstate facilities to promote and facilitate bribery in violation of the Travel Act, and Count 1 of an information that charges him with making and subscribing a false personal tax return for the 2009 tax year. Linares imposed the sentence July 13 in Newark federal court.
According to documents filed in these and other cases and statements made in court, Bernard served as a consultant to the NWCDC from 2008 to January 2010 and then as a salaried employee from January 2010 to March 2013. From 2008 to March 2013, Bernard was part of a corrupt arrangement with former NWCDC Executive Director Linda Watkins Brashear to solicit $956,948 in cash kickbacks from certain NWCDC contractors in exchange for providing them work and other assistance. Bernard and Brashear facilitated NWCDC payments to contractors to fund cash kickbacks to themselves, knowing payments were inflated above the amount of any work performed. They knew that in numerous instances no work at all had been performed. Bernard and Brashear used their email accounts to facilitate this scheme.
Two contractors from whom Bernard and Brashear obtained substantial cash kickbacks were Jim P. Enterprises and New Beginnings Environmental Services, both companies hired to perform landscaping, snow removal, cleanup and sign-posting services, which were affiliated with Bernard but purportedly operated by James Porter, according to the attorney general’s office. Bernard admitted receiving $409,823 in bribes and kickbacks from Porter’s companies, funded by inflated and fraudulently obtained payments from the NWCDC, during the period January 2008 to December 2012. Bernard also admitted receiving approximately $85,000 from Essex Home Improvements, a contracting company operated by DeRosa, during the period January 2008 to March 2013, which he received either directly or indirectly through companies Bernard controlled.
Bernard also admitted filing a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040, for tax year 2009, which did not include approximately $314,000 in unreported income he received in kickbacks.
A co-defendant, Giacomo “Jack” DeRosa, 60, of Clinton previously pleaded guilty to laundering a portion of $85,000 he provided to Bernard from January 2008 to August 2012 in connection with roofing work that Bernard facilitated for DeRosa with the NWCDC. DeRosa was sentenced on Oct. 25, 2016, to six months in prison.
Brashear pleaded guilty on Dec. 21, 2015, to devising a scheme to defraud the NWCDC as well as filing a false tax return by failing to report substantial income she received in connection with the kickback scheme. She is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 11, 2017. Among the approximately $1 million in kickbacks that Brashear admitted receiving were approximately $260,000 from Porter and $27,000 from DeRosa. Porter pleaded guilty in January 2015 to conspiracy to defraud the NWCDC of honest services, money and property through the use of interstate wire transmissions, as well as tax evasion for his role in the kickback scheme. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 20, 2017.
DeRosa admitted that from January 2008 to August 2012 he provided Bernard with a stream of payments totaling approximately $85,000 for Bernard’s action and assistance in procuring NWCDC roofing work for DeRosa’s company. DeRosa provided these payments to Bernard either directly, or to Bernard’s consulting firm, or to a Newark-based civic organization run by Bernard, the African American Heritage Parade Committee. DeRosa also admitted to laundering $20,000 of the money by having it paid to Bernard indirectly through intermediaries in order to disguise DeRosa or Essex Home Improvements as the source of the funds. Two intermediaries DeRosa admitted to using to launder funds provided to Bernard included a subcontractor doing work for DeRosa’s company and Porter.
In addition to the prison term, Linares sentenced Bernard to three years of supervised release.