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South Passaic Daily Voice serves Clifton, Haledon, Hawthorne, Little Falls, North Haledon, Passaic, Paterson, Prospect Park, Totowa, Wayne & Woodland Park

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Former Passaic Mayor Samuel 'Sammy' Rivera Dies

Samuel "Sammy" Rivera
Samuel "Sammy" Rivera Photo Credit: FILE PHOTO

Former Passaic Mayor Samuel Rivera has died in a nursing home in Pennsylvania, current Mayor Hector Carlos Lora confirmed Friday. He was 73.

A cause of death wasn't immediately disclosed.

"As a city we extend our condolences to the Rivera family on the passing of former Passaic Mayor Samuel Rivera," Lora wrote. "I still speak to people today who share stories of how he helped them personally and how much he cared about people. 

"Many in our community can remember his approach to cleaning up the streets of violent crimes and how visible he was in Passaic," the mayor said.

Born in Cayey, Puerto Rico, Rivera came to national attention when a federal grand jury indicted him in 2007 for accepting bribes in exchange for agreeing to direct municipal contracts to an insurance company that turned out to be an FBI front.

The Democratic mayor pleaded guilty to attempted extortion, blaming his crimes on "poor judgment."He resigned from office in May 2008 and was sentenced to 21 months.

After serving 16 months at a federal prison in Ohio, Rivera was transferred to a halfway house in New York to serve out the remainder of the term.

Rivera began his career as a Passaic police officer in 1968, but was charged with brutality two years later and resigned.

He returned to Puerto Rico to work as a police officer but lost that job, too, when he was convicted of deliberately slashing himself to make it look like he'd been attacked in order to protect his partner, who'd killed a drug suspect.

After being sentenced to probation, Rivera returned to Passaic in 1981 and became a private investigator.He lost his first two City Council races, in 1993 and 1995, then won a special election to the Council.

Rivera also lost his first mayoral race, in 1997, before winning in 2001.

Then-Gov. Donald DiFrancesco tried to keep Rivera from taking office because of his conviction in Puerto Rico, but Superior Court Judge Robert Passero allowed him to be sworn in, ruling that state authorities failed to prove his crime was one of "moral turpitude."

"Our prayers and thoughts are with his family and friends," Lora said Friday. "May the memories of things he did to help others serve as some com fillet during these difficult times."

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