Passaic Mayor Convicted on Tax, Extortion Charges
NEWARK, N.J. (AP) _ The mayor of Passaic was convicted Saturday of five federal tax charges and two counts of conspiracy for extorting a $150,000 kickback from a man doing business with the city.
Mayor Joseph Lipari, 56, was acquitted of seven other charges. Jurors deliberated for 4 1/2 days.
Lipari remains free on bail. He will be sentenced Feb. 15 and faces up to 65 years in prison.
Lipari was portrayed by federal prosecutors as a corrupt politician lured by the prospect of making easy money. But his attorney described him as a family man trapped in scams perpetrated by people around him.
He was the second New Jersey mayor convicted of federal tax and fraud charges during the past year. Gerald McCann of Jersey City, who was convicted Dec. 17, began serving a three-year sentence in September.
McCann, 41, was convicted on 15 of 16 fraud and tax charges, with a jury finding he embezzled at least $267,000 from a Florida savings and loan that had invested in a proposed Jersey City waterfront marina project.
In the Passaic case, prosecutors said a $150,000 kickback was collected for Lipari from towing contractor John Raineri Jr.
Raineri was one of 19 witnesses called by prosecutors to support their claim that Lipari reigned over a seven-year era of City Hall corruption they said began two days after his election.
″He sat behind the desk of his office and used his power to make money for himself, and in doing so he broke the laws of the United States,″ First Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said in closing arguments last week.
Defense attorney Justin P. Walder had asked the jurors to evaluate the prosecution’s witnesses, many of whom were admitted crooks. He added that Lipari won election in 1983 by vowing to clean up the city.
Lipari didn’t testify during the four-week trial.