By Matthew Arco | November 13th, 2012 - 4:12pm
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TRENTON – Embattled Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo told a former friend and federal cooperating witness during secretly recorded meetings that he was “just so sick” over his financial situation.

Prosecutors hit play on audio recordings made by a former insurance broker, Maria Ljuba, in which the mayor agonized over being able to pay his bills. The recordings were played Tuesday during the sitting mayor’s criminal trial.

“I can’t keep going on like this,” Bencivengo said during a meeting with Ljuba.

“I am sick. I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said during another audio clip. “I can’t get caught up. I’m in so much (expletive) turmoil.”

During the recorded encounters, the pair discussed the mayor going to Atlantic City and claiming he won cash Ljuba planned to give him from a casino.

Prosecutors also played a secret video recording which showed Bencivengo counting $2,400 in cash given to him by Ljuba.

“Thank you,” Bencivengo said. “I love you.”

Prosecutors continued to question their star witness during day one of the mayor’s trial Tuesday that came after Bencivengo was charged in April with soliciting $12,400 in bribes to help an insurance company retain a contract with the township’s school district.

Ljuba told jurors today she was worried that she could lose her contract with the Hamilton Township School District after a member of the school board, Stephanie Pratico, suggested the board go out to bid for a new insurance contract.

Bencivengo’s attorney told jurors during opening arguments that Ljuba essentially threw her former friend under the bus after she was approached by the FBI last year. His attorney, Jerome Ballarotto, described Ljuba as a corrupted insurance broker who gave his client a loan and then turned on him to save herself from criminal charges.

Wake-Up Call

Morning Digest: September 29th

Winners and Losers: Week of September 22nd WINNERS Tom MacArthur In arguably the most competitive contest of the season, the CD3 Republican candidate forced Comcast to take down an inaccurate Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) television advertisement – the second of three forced off the air. "Our attorney was...

Op-Ed

Legislation needed for publicly financed gubernatorial elections

By JEFF BRINDLE It is critical that the Legislature soon enact a pending bill that would ensure the state’s Gubernatorial Public Financing Program is available in the event of a special election for governor.  Not only is there no current legal... Read More >

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Quote of the Day

quote of the day

"After not responding to messages all week seeking an interview about the campaign, Garrett’s spokeswoman said on Friday afternoon that she would try to set one up, but did not respond further. Garrett has not released any announcements of where he would be campaigning, though he has posted pictures on social media on Sept. 8 from the Greenwood Lake Air Show in West Milford and on Sept. 14 from the Hackettstown Street Fair. Garrett has not agreed to any debates so far." - columnist Herb Jackson

- The Bergen Record

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