A 40-second video showing former Passaic Mayor Samuel Rivera accepting a bribe from FBI operatives has made its way onto the Internet.
U.S. District Court Judge Freda Wolfson released the footage to a reporter on Friday after sentencing Rivera to 21 months in prison and a $4,000 fine, after he pleaded guilty to extortion.
The video, first posted on The Star-Ledger’s Web site, shows Rivera seated in a parked car, chatting with one of the FBI’s cooperating witnesses, and accepting $5,000 cash and brochures from the fake company they allegedly represented.
Although the cooperating witnesses’ face is blurred in the video, Rivera is seen wearing a T-shirt, shaking hands with the man and exchanging quick pleasantries after accepting the bribe. Some of the conversation on the video is inaudible.
“As I told you I’m going to give you some brochures,” the FBI agent says to Rivera. “It’s only $5,000, but it’s a start. And I appreciate your help.”
Then, the agent adds, “Listen, that idea about the Passaic water, that’s fantastic.”
To which Rivera replied, “We have everybody there, everybody.”
“Well, they’ve got a big house on top of the hill,” the agent answered, chuckling.
Rivera then looks at the cooperating witness and smiles.
“Between him and I … easy, easy,” Rivera said.
“Sammy, I really appreciate it,” the cooperating witness said. “Thank you for your time.”
“Take care, baby,” Rivera said as he got out of the vehicle.
Greg Reinert, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Newark, said the video was part of the federal prosecution’s sentencing brief.
The defense submitted its own video from family members asking the judge for leniency against the 61-year-old former Passaic mayor.
Prosecutors alleged that Rivera accepted the bribe and the promise of $50,000 to be sent to an overseas bank account from the cooperating witnesses, who posed as insurance brokers wanting contracts from the city.
The witnesses said they worked for Coastal Solutions LLC, a fake business. Rivera, in exchange, promised to use his influence with the City Council to get the brokers lucrative city contracts.
Rivera, as mayor of one of the cities that owned the Passaic Valley Water Commission, also bragged that he could get the brokers contracts with that agency.
The video is just one of hundreds of recorded tapes made during the FBI’s six-month corruption investigation, dubbed “Operation Broken Boards.”
The FBI probe led to the arrests last September of 11 public officials and a private citizen in New Jersey, including four from Passaic County – former Assemblyman Alfred Steele, D-Paterson, former Passaic City Councilmen Marcellus Jackson and Jonathan Soto.
Soto has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial, which is scheduled for the fall. NorthJersey.com