WO woman pleads guilty to accepting kickbacks, fraud

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The former executive director of the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. admitted Dec. 21 to accepting approximately $999,000 in kickback payments in exchange for her assistance in awarding work to various vendors and contractors of the agency, according to a Dec. 21 press release from the United State Attorney’s Office for the district of New Jersey.

Linda Watkins Brashear, 56, of West Orange pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose Linares in Newark Federal Court to counts one and five 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 issued for work that was not performed by the contractors — count one — and subscribing a false tax return for the year 2012 — count five.

Brashear served as the executive director for the NWCDC from 2007 to March 2013. During this time, according to court documents, she and others devised a scheme to defraud the corporation. 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 NWCDC employee for her direct and indirect benefit in exchange for action and assistance in the affairs of the corporation.

The wire fraud charge to which Brashear pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. the charge of filing a false tax return carries a maximum potential penalty of three years in prison. Both charges are punishable by a fine of $250,000 or twice the amount of the pecuniary gain or loss from the offense, in this case nearly $2 million. Sentencing is scheduled for April 5.