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Brick City Backhander: Feds Charge Newark Councilman With Taking Payoffs For Influence

Joseph McCallum Jr.
Joseph McCallum Jr. Photo Credit: FACEBOOK

Federal agents caught a sitting Newark City Council member pocketing payoffs in exchange for influence, authorities said Tuesday.

West Ward Councilman Joseph A. McCallum Jr., 65, was charged with soliciting and collecting bribes and kickbacks at the same time that a consultant from the city, 60-year-old Malik Frederick, was pleading guilty to his role in the scheme, they said.

McCallum “schemed to receive concealed bribes and kickbacks from Frederick, funded by developers, contracting companies, and other businesses seeking contracts and approvals principally related to development, construction, and real estate projects and deals in Newark,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.

Frederick solicited the developers to hire his company for “access” to McCallum as the city leader “behind the particular project or deal of interest to them,” Carpenito said.

Frederick then kicked up a percentage of the “access” payments to the Democrat councilman, the U.S. attorney said.

McCullum, who’s also on the Board of Directors of the Newark Community Economic Development Corporation (NCEDC), not only used his juice to help those who ponied up, Carpenito said.

McCallum and Frederick kept those who refused or hesitated to pay from getting contracts from the city or the NCEDC (now a cooperative known as Invest Newark), he said.

The feds got involved after it turned out that McCallum and Frederick “used interstate emails and phone calls to further this scheme and took significant steps to conceal these bribes and kickbacks,” Carpenito said.

A pair of unindicted co-conspirators, one of whom was believed to be Frederick, helped federal authorities make their case.

Among the bribes and kickbacks sought and/or received by McCallum through Frederick, Carpenito said, were:

  • a $16,000 bribe that came from a contracting company;
  • a $25,000 bribe and kickback that came from a developer’s company;
  • $500 in cash to cover travel expenses for an out-of-country trip came from a second developer, along with “an attempt to receive part of a $50,000 payment”;
  • another attempt made to shake down the seller of property in the West Ward and a developer who was seeking to buy and develop it.

Frederick also sought to have a modular home company that was in negotiations with the NCEDC on a Newark development project retain his consulting company while hopefully collecting a $40,000 kickback, Carpenito said.

Frederick, whose sentencing in federal court in Newark is scheduled for March 2, admitted that he intended to share the $40,000 payment with a co-conspirator who referred him and and expected his own cut.

The modular home company refused to hire Frederick’s outfit and didn’t get the NCEDC contract, the U.S. attorney said.

Frederick was removed from the Board of Director for Invest Newark, President/CEO Bernel Hall said.

McCallum "did not have direct roles in the day-to-day operations and the allegations do not involve any present employee or board member of Invest Newark," Hall said.

"Since our relaunch as Invest Newark in 2019, we have strengthened our policies and procedures to prevent conflicts of interest and protect against fraud," he added. "We are committed to transparency and accountability.” 

Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI’s Newark Field Office, special agents of IRS-Criminal Investigation and special agents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General with the investigation leading to the guilty plea by Frederick and charges against McCallum.

Both were handled for the government by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jihee G. Suh, Jeffrey Manis, and Elaine K. Lou of his Special Prosecutions Division.

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