Nail dirty pols, Union City psychiatrist says in counterclaim
Tuesday, March 21, 2006

This is the second of two parts looking at the fallout from the civil suit Hudson County filed against corrupt pols and contractors.

The Union City psychiatrist who helped the FBI snare corrupt former Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski and is now being sued by the county says he is a victim of retaliation by "cronies" of the former political boss, according to a counterclaim filed in federal court.

Dr. Oscar Sandoval, who once held contracts to provide psychiatric care at the county jail, is among 14 defendants in a lawsuit filed by the county in January seeking damages equal to bribes, "illegally" obtained contracts, interest and attorneys fees. That suit seeks $26 million, $7 million from Sandoval alone.

In the counterclaim, filed March 13, Sandoval says he was in fact a victim of corruption and that the county's suit is retaliation against him for helping put Janiszewski behind bars. Sandoval passed bribes to Janiszewski in 1999 while wearing a wire for the FBI. Janiszewski pleaded guilty to extortion and is now in federal prison.

The suit, Sandoval claims, has a chilling effect on those engaged in "combating and cooperating with authorities against criminals" and infringes on his right to free speech.

"This is America, not Osama-Bin-Laden's country," the suit says.

Sandoval tries to lump the current administration in with Janiszewski.

"The present county executive, Thomas A. DeGise, ran for election having as companions in the ticket Nidia Davila-Colon and William Braker and with the support of Robert J. Menendez for their election," the counterclaim says. "The political cronies of 'the boss' Robert Janiszewski, Nidia Davila-Colon and Mr. William Braker, came to power together with Thomas A. DeGise."

Davila-Colon, a former freeholder and Sandoval's onetime girlfriend, was convicted in 2003 of passing bribes to Janiszewski from Sandoval. Braker, also a former freeholder, pleaded guilty in 2004 to accepting bribes. Both are in prison.

The attorney representing the county in its suit, Stephen Edelstein of Florham Park, called Sandoval's counterclaim "frivolous."

Responding to Sandoval's characterization of the current administration as cronies, Edelstein said the plaintiffs in the county's suit - the county executive, the Board of Freeholders and the county Improvement Authority - are the government entities "defrauded by Sandoval and others who paid off Janiszewski."

Sandoval claims he got in trouble with county officials in 1997 by making allegations against the Renaissance program, which provided alcohol and drug rehabilitation services at the county Youth House in Secaucus.

Sandoval claims in court papers that he told Janiszewski and other county officials the program employed unqualified people and was billing Medicaid and Medicare fraudulently.

According to the county suit, Janiszewski told Sandoval that if he thought he could do a better job, he could replace the program and told him to work out a proposal with Paul. J. Byrne, Janiszewski's political advisor and admitted bagman, who died last year while awaiting sentencing on tax evasion and extortion charges.

Sandoval got nowhere working with Byrne and attorney Donald Scarinci, he says in court papers, so he took his allegations to the county freeholders and then to the Hudson County Prosecutor's Office.

"That was when all hell broke loose," Sandoval's counterclaim says. "(Sandoval) was subject to extortion, extortionistic threats, extortionistic demands by both Robert Janiszewski and Donald Scarinci, who demanded that he became a team player, or he would lose all of what he had lawfully obtained and earned (the contracts)."

Reached yesterday, Scarinci, a partner in the powerful Lyndhurst law firm Scarinci and Hollenbeck, said: "There is no greater compliment than having someone like Oscar Sandoval angry at you."

The extortion continued until 1999, when Sandoval decided to go to the FBI, the counterclaim says.

Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio, who was first assistant prosecutor in 1997 when Sandoval made the allegations against Renaissance, said his office did not find any crime.

"It was received and there wasn't any evidence of criminality," DeFazio said. "I think that information was forwarded to federal authorities."

Former Hudson County Administrator Geoffrey Perselay was a consultant for Renaissance, the counterclaim says. Perselay is also an executive at Correctional Health Services, the company that took over Sandoval's contract at the jail, the counterclaim says. Officials at CHS said yesterday that Perselay is on vacation and could not be reached.

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