NEWARK, N.J. – A Linden, New Jersey, man today admitted conspiring with officials at the Paterson Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) and the Jersey City Childhood Development Centers Inc. (JCCDC) to fraudulently obtain payments for services he never provided, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Carnell Baskerville, 51, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares to an information charging him intentionally conspiring with a former commissioner with the Paterson MUA to commit extortion under color of official right and conspiring with Robert E. Mays, the former Executive Director of the JCCDC, to embezzle and obtain by fraud funds that were under the care and control of the JCCDC, an organization that received more than $10,000 in federal program benefits annually.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Baskerville was a self-employed contractor based in Linden who provided contracting services for both residential homes and commercial businesses. Around 2014, Baskerville became acquainted with an individual identified in the information as “Coconspirator 1,”who was then a commissioner with the since-dissolved Paterson MUA, which had been created to manage the hydroelectric plant on the Passaic River and care for certain surrounding properties.
Baskerville and Coconspirator 1 entered into an agreement whereby Coconspirator 1, who exercised control over Paterson MUA finances, would approve payments from the Paterson MUA to Baskerville’s company for services rendered, even though both Baskerville and Coconspirator 1 knew that Baskerville had not and would not perform those services.
Between December 2014 and May 2015, Coconspirator 1 wrote a series of Paterson MUA checks totaling $146,500 to Baskerville’s company. Baskerville deposited these checks in his bank account and kicked back a significant percentage in cash to Coconspirator 1 to reward him for his official assistance in carrying out the scheme.
Baskerville entered into a similar scheme with Mays, the Executive Director of the JCCDC, which operated as a non-profit organization created to serve impoverished and disabled children in Jersey City. In February 2014, Baskerville and Mays entered into a purported contract for Baskerville to provide kitchen renovation work on behalf of JCCDC, knowing full well that Baskerville had not and would not perform those services.
In late February 2014, Mays issued a JCCDC check in the amount of $29,675 to Baskerville. Baskerville and Mays met at a check cashing business in Jersey City where they cashed the check and split the proceeds between them.
The count of conspiracy to commit extortion by color of official right carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The count of conspiracy to commit theft concerning programs receiving federal benefits carries a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of his plea, Baskerville must pay restitution in the amount of $176,175. Sentencing is scheduled for May 16, 2018.
Mays pleaded guilty to wire fraud on June 7, 2016 before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton. On July 31, 2017, he was sentenced to 18 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution in the amount of $257,418.20.
U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher in Newark, with the investigation.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. McCarren of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
Defense counsel: Arthur Abrams Esq., Jersey City