Brashear sentenced to 8.5 years in prison

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The former executive director of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. was sentenced Sept. 21 to 102 months in prison for accepting nearly $1 million in kickback payments in exchange for her assistance in awarding work to various vendors and contractors of the agency, acting U.S. Attorney William E. Fitzpatrick announced in a press release.

Linda Watkins Brashear, 57, of West Orange previously pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose Linares to counts 1 and 5 of a five-count information charging her with a wire fraud scheme to defraud the NWCDC by accepting bribes and kickback payments from contractors and an employee of the corporation, which were funded by payments from the NWCDC based on fraudulently inflated invoices or issued for work that was not performed by the contractors, and subscribing a false tax return for the year 2012. Linares imposed the sentence in Newark federal court on Sept. 21.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Brashear served as the executive director for the NWCDC from 2007 to March 2013. During this time, she and others devised a scheme to defraud the NWCDC of her honest services in the affairs of the NWCDC and of the NWCDC’s money and property. The object of the scheme was for Brashear and others to accept a substantial stream of concealed and undisclosed kickbacks from NWCDC contractors and an employee of the NWCDC for her direct and indirect benefit in exchange for action and assistance in the affairs of the NWCDC, and for her violating her official duties and responsibilities.

Between 2008 and March 2013, Brashear accepted approximately $999,000 in kickbacks financed through the receipt of payments by contractors and an employee of the NWCDC that were fraudulently obtained from the NWCDC with Brashear’s assistance, through materially false pretenses, representations and promises.

Brashear routinely accepted payments from some of these contractors through Donald Bernard Sr. Brashear and Bernard also used their email accounts to facilitate this kickback and fraud scheme. Bernard was previously charged in December 2014 in a 20-count indictment with various federal offenses involving a scheme to defraud the NWCDC of his honest services and the NWCDC’s money and property by accepting and agreeing to accept bribes and kickbacks from certain NWCDC contractors, which were financed at least in part through the contractors’ fraudulent padding of invoices to the NWCDC.

Brashear admitted taking payments from James Porter, a contractor who 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. The roofing contractor referred to in Count 1 of the information, Giacomo “Jack” DeRosa, was charged in a six-count fraud and money laundering indictment in December 2014 for his role in passing kickbacks to Bernard, which were shared, in part, with Brashear.

Brashear also admitted making and subscribing a U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, Form 1040, for tax year 2012, signed and filed with the IRS under penalty of perjury, which she did not believe to be true and correct, including approximately $316,000 in unreported income that she received through the kickback payments.

In addition to the prison term, Linares sentenced Brashear to three years of supervised release and ordered her to pay $1.3 million in restitution.

On July 13, Linares sentenced Bernard to eight years in prison for his role in the kickback scheme and for filing false tax returns. DeRosa was sentenced on Oct. 25, 2016, to six months in prison. On July 20, Porter was sentenced to two years in prison for his role in the scheme.

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