Rahway man admits making corrupt payments to Orange public official

ORANGE, NJ — A Union County man admitted Oct. 14 to making corrupt payments to a public official of the city of Orange Township as a reward for that public official’s favorable treatment in connection with an Orange municipal project, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Jeanmarie Zahore, 56, of Rahway, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty to Count 1 of an indictment against him, charging Zahore with making corrupt payments to an agent of a local government receiving federal funds, whom Zahore identified as Willis Edwards III.

On Sept. 29, Edwards, the former acting business administrator for Orange, was charged in a superseding indictment in connection with payments allegedly made by Zahore, as well as other charges.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Zahore was the sole owner of JZ Nettech, a computer consulting business that he operated out of his residence. On Sept. 15, 2015, the City Council of Orange Township passed a resolution awarding JZ Nettech, without competitive bidding, a $350,000 emergency contract to install a computer networking system at a municipal complex that housed the Orange Municipal Court and the Orange Police Department.

From August 2015 through at least Nov. 23, 2015, Zahore engaged in a scheme to offer and give corrupt cash payments to an unnamed Orange public official, called hereafter Individual 1, to influence and reward Individual 1 for using Individual 1’s influence to arrange for Orange to award JZ Nettech the emergency contract and to facilitate payments from Orange to JZ Nettech.

After communications between Zahore and Individual 1, at a meeting at the Municipal Complex on Sept. 14, 2015, Individual 1 advised a senior court official of the Orange Municipal Court and a senior police official of the Orange Police Department that: there was an urgent need to address a potential security vulnerability in the Municipal Complex’s computer network; and that JZ Nettech had been selected as the vendor to fix the problem. Individual 1 caused Orange to issue a Certification of Funds, certifying that $350,000 was available for the Municipal Complex Project and identifying the vendor as JZ Nettech.

On Sept. 15, 2015, Individual 1 spoke before the Orange City Council in support of allocating emergency funds for the Municipal Complex Project and awarding the Municipal Complex Project to JZ Nettech. At the meeting, during which Orange City Council members raised questions about the selection of JZ Nettech as the vendor for the Municipal Complex Project, Individual 1 did not disclose that Individual 1 had engaged in communications with Zahore since at least Aug. 31, 2015.

On Sept. 16, 2015, the day after the Orange City Council approved the $350,000 contract, Individual 1 approved the issuance of a blanket purchase order authorizing Orange to pay JZ Nettech $350,000 in connection with the Municipal Complex Project.

On Sept. 17, 2015, after Zahore and Individual 1 text-messaged about Zahore’s invoice to Orange and meeting with each other, Zahore sent an email to Orange Employee 1, attached to which was a JZ Nettech “invoice related to the 1st stage of the project” seeking a payment of $115,000. On the same date, Zahore sent a text message to Individual 1, stating that he had sent the invoice to the employee and asking if Individual 1 wanted a copy.

On Sept. 18, 2015, Zahore sent an email to Orange Employee 1, attached to which was a revised JZ Nettech invoice, still seeking a payment of $115,000, but now indicating that $34,460 of the $115,000 was for the “Purchase of wiring for buildings.” On the same date, at Individual 1’s direction, the Police Department Official signed and approved a purchase order for the payment of $115,000 to JZ Nettech for the “PURCH(ASE) OF WIRING/CABLE/SUPPLIES” for the Municipal Complex Project. Typically, vendors are not prepaid by Orange to purchase supplies for a project.

From Sept. 18, 2015, to Nov. 10, 2015, Zahore received and deposited three Orange checks totaling $350,000 in connection with the Municipal Complex Project into a bank account for him and JZ Nettech.

On Nov. 20, 2015, and Nov. 23, 2015, Zahore withdrew a total of approximately $50,000 in cash from this bank account, which was obtained, in substantial part, from the funds paid by Orange. On each of those same dates, Zahore gave, and Individual 1 accepted, approximately $10,000 in cash, which was intended to influence and reward Individual 1 for Individual 1’s assistance in connection with the Municipal Complex Project. Zahore characterized those two cash payments to Individual 1, totaling approximately $20,000, in a spreadsheet that Zahore maintained of expenses related to the Municipal Complex Project. Zahore noted each payment as a “gift.”

The charge to which Zahore pleaded guilty carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, or twice the pecuniary gain to the defendant or loss to the victims. Sentencing is scheduled for March 3, 2021.

The charges and allegations against Edwards are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty. Additionally, Zahore is presumed innocent of any charges to which he did not plead guilty.

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