Union County man admits bribing official: prosecutor

UNION COUNTY, NJ – Federal authorities said a Union County man admitted on Wednesday to making “corrupt payments” to an Orange Township official as a reward for the official’s favorable treatment under a a municipal project.

According to US Attorney Craig Carpenito, 56-year-old Jeanmarie Zahore of Rahway pleaded guilty to making corrupt payments to a local government official receiving federal funds, whom Zahore identified as Willis Edwards III.

On September 29, 2020, Edwards, the former acting corporate director of Orange, was charged in a superseding indictment in relation to payments allegedly made by Zahore, along with other charges.

According to documents filed in that case and statements made in court, Zahore was the sole owner of JZ Nettech, an IT consulting business which he operated from his residence in Rahway.

On September 15, 2015, the Orange City Council passed a resolution awarding JZ Nettech, without a tender, an emergency $350,000 contract to install a computer networking system at a city complex that housed the courthouse. Municipality of Orange and the Orange Police Service. (the “Municipal Complex Project”).

Edwards, as a public official of Orange, helped Zahore secure the contract for the Municipal Complex project and facilitated the payment of money from Orange to JZ Nettech in connection with the Municipal Complex project.

Edwards agreed to arrange an advance on Orange money for Zahore because Zahore did not have the money to begin work on the municipal complex, federal prosecutors said. On instructions from Edwards, on September 18, 2015, Zahore emailed an Orange employee an invoice for $115,000 in connection with the municipal complex project to obtain a deposit for himself. As a general rule, suppliers are not prepaid by Orange to purchase supplies for a project.

According to federal authorities, on September 18, 2015, Zahore received a check from Orange in the amount of $115,000 made out to JZ Nettech and deposited this check in JZ Nettech’s bank account. Shortly after receiving the Orange check for $115,000, Zahore and Edwards went out together at night to celebrate the awarding of the $350,000 contract to JZ Nettech.

In October and November 2015, authorities said Zahore received two additional payments from Orange for the municipal complex project, one of $140,000 and another of $95,000. On more than one occasion, Edwards told Zahore, in essence, that Edwards had taken care of Zahore and that Zahore should think about it and do something about it. Zahore would have understood these comments from Edwards as solicitations and demands that Zahore pay Edwards to reward Edwards for Edwards’ help with the municipal complex project.

In November 2015, Zahore gave Edwards around $10,000 in cash. After accepting cash payment, Edwards said he was disappointed with the amount and expected more. Zahore made a second cash payment to Edwards for approximately $10,000. Zahore made both of these cash payments in an effort to reward Edwards for his help.

Federal officials said the charge to which Zahore pleaded guilty carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000, twice the pecuniary gain for the accused or the loss for the victims. Judgment is scheduled for March 3, 2021.

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