2003-09-25 -- Russo, Anthony J. -- Indictment -- News Release

Former Hoboken Mayor Russo Indicted for Extortion and Bribery

NEWARK - The former mayor of Hoboken, Anthony J. Russo, surrendered to the FBI this morning, after being charged in an Indictment with extortion and bribery for allegedly taking cash from bar owners, and city vendors, including a waterfront parking operator, towing contractor, accounting firm and an attorney, in exchange for official action on municipal contracts, U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie announced.

Russo, who served two terms as mayor between 1993 and 2001, is charged in a seven-count Indictment with six counts of mail fraud in a scheme to deny honest services to the citizens of Hoboken and one count of extortion. His Indictment was returned yesterday and unsealed after his surrender to Special Agents of the FBI in Newark this morning.

Russo, 56, is scheduled to make an initial appearance at 2:30 today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Ronald J. Hedges.

Counts One through Six, the dishonest services charges, detail Russo's alleged solicitation and taking of bribes from bar owners and contractors already doing business with Hoboken or seeking contracts. Among the bribery and extortion alleged in the Indictment, in which the contractors are not identified by name:

taking at least $5,000 from bar owners, through an intermediary who threatened to cause the prosecution of for Alcohol Beverage Control Board violations if they didn't pay, between 1994 and 1996.

acceptance of several thousand dollars between 1994 and 1996 on approximately a monthly basis from a business which contracted with the city to use public land to operate parking lots on locations on the Hoboken waterfront.

accepting at least $15,000 in 1997 from a towing contractor to influence and reward Russo for official action in the awarding of municipal contracts.

accepting, on an ongoing basis between 1997 to about December 2001, increments of thousands of dollars at a time from an accounting firm, in return for official action on professional services contracts.

soliciting and taking approximately $1,500 from an attorney in 1998, in connection with the awarding of a Hoboken Board of Education contract for legal services.

Count Seven, charges extortion, specifically to obtain money from the accounting firm, under color of official right.

Russo allegedly used the intermediary to obtain the cash payments from the bar owners and the towing and parking contractors, in an attempt to conceal his involvement. The intermediary is not identified by name in the Indictment. Russo also failed to disclose the payments between 1994 and 2001 on his annual financial disclosure forms filed with the state Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs.

Counts One through Six carry a maximum penalty of penalty of five years in prison and a $250,00 fine. Count Seven carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Christie credited Special Agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Louie F. Allen, in Newark, with bringing the case against Russo.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Luis A. Valentin and Carolyn A. Murray.

Defense Attorney: Dennis McAlevy, Esq. Union City.