A former commissioner with the now-defunct Paterson Municipal Utilities Authority is headed to federal prison for nearly three years for a pair of kickback schemes.
Erik Lowe, 51, of Paterson, previously pleaded guilty in exchange for leniency at Monday’s sentencing in U.S. District Court in Newark. He must serve just about all of the term because they’re no parole in the federal prison system.
Lowe admitted conspiring with contractor Carnell Baskerville, who was sentenced two years ago to a plea-bargained 21 months in federal prison for his role in the scheme, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said.
Lowe also admitted conspiring with another, unnamed contractor in a separate scheme.
The MUA was created to manage the hydroelectric plant on the Passaic River in Paterson, as well as to care for and manage certain surrounding properties.
In one of the schemes, Lowe admitted approving $146,500 in MUA payments to Baskerville for work he didn’t and wasn’t planning to do.
Baskerville, in turn, kicked money back to Lowe and a fellow, as-yet unidentified commissioner, Carpenito said.
Lowe admitted pulling the same stunt with a second contractor whose company installed and repaired fences for businesses and residences.
Lowe admitted that “initially he inflated the checks provided to this contractor substantially above the value of the jobs the contractor performed on behalf of the MUA,” Carpenito said.
This way, he said, “the contractor could kick back thousands of dollars in cash in kickbacks to Lowe for Lowe’s official assistance in carrying out the scheme.”
It reached the point that Lowe “was issuing checks worth thousands of dollars to the contractor knowing that no job had been or would be performed by the contractor,” the U.S. attorney said.
Overall, Lowe signed off on $141,700 worth of payments and collected tens of thousands of dollars in cash from the contractor, he said.
In addition to the prison term, U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty sentenced Lowe to three years of supervised release and ordered him to pay restitution of $236,400.
Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI with the investigation leading to the guilty pleas and sentences, secured by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. McCarren of his Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
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