APRIL 16, 2008
The former longtime mayor of New Jersey’s largest city has been convicted by a federal jury of corruption for getting his young mistress heavily discounted public property that she later sold for large profits.
Newark’s 72-year-old married mayor, Sharpe James, was found guilty of five charges—including fraud and conspiracy—for orchestrating the illegal scheme involving nine city parcels. The mayor sold the properties to his 38-year-old girlfriend (Tamika Riley) at a highly discounted rate of $46,000. She made a hefty profit by immediately selling them for $665,000. The mistress was also convicted of the same charges as well as eight others, including tax evasion and cheating to obtain subsidized housing assistance.
The disgraced mayor faces seven to eight years in prison and he could be stripped of public pensions that currently give him a six-figure annual income. James was Newark’s mayor for two decades until 2006 and a Democratic state senator from 1999 until 2008. He still faces a second trial for using a city-issued credit card to pay for nearly $60,000 worth of personal expenses, including trips with a variety of mistresses to luxury resorts in the Caribbean, Martha’s Vineyard and Rio de Janeiro.
That federal indictment portrays James like a careless rich playboy who repeatedly abused his office and charged taxpayers for stays at upscale hotels, expensive meals at fancy restaurants and airfare for himself and an army of mistresses. Prosecutors even included a detailed chart listing more than 150 instances in which James charged personal expenses on his city-issued credit card.
The former mayor is just one of numerous public officials recently charged in a widespread New Jersey federal corruption ring that has already resulted in 100 convictions of elected officials and the contractors who did business with them. James will soon join them in the slammer. His sentencing is scheduled for this summer.
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