NORTH BERGEN– A North Bergen man admitted Tuesday to paying cash bribes to a West New York fire official to eliminate millions of dollars in outstanding fines and penalties on buildings with fire code violations, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Victor Coca, 48, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Esther Salas to Count One and Count Two of an indictment charging him with paying bribes to a local government employee.
According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:
Coca was the owner and president of a general contracting company in West New York. Two buildings in West New York had outstanding fines for fire code violations. The first building, located on Bergenline Avenue and owned by a friend of his, had approximately $14,500 in fines and penalties for outstanding fire code violations. Coca agreed to pay a fire official for the West New York Bureau of Fire Prevention, a witness who was voluntarily cooperating with federal authorities, a $2,000 cash bribe to eliminate the outstanding fire code fines and penalties. On March 27, 2014, Coca handed the fire official a $2,000 cash bribe.
The second building, located on Hudson Avenue and partly-owned by Coca, had more than $8.7 million in fines and penalties for outstanding fire code violations. Coca paid a $5,000 cash bribe to the fire official in return for the fire official purportedly reducing the amount due to the West New York Bureau of Fire Prevention to the initial fine amount of $5,000.
The two bribery counts to which Coca pleaded guilty each carry a maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss from the offense. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 20, 2015.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Richard M. Frankel in Newark, with the investigation leading to Tuesdays’s plea.The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark. Defense counsel: Howard Brownstein Esq., Union City, New Jersey; Nelson Gonzalez Esq., Dover, New Jersey