TRENTON – When FBI agents first questioned Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo about accepting cash from an insurance broker turned federal informant, he looked “kind of shocked,” said the FBI special agent who questioned the mayor about the alleged bribery scheme.
Federal prosecutors called FBI Special Agent Stephen Montgomery to the stand Wednesday to give testimony on the FBI’s initial interview with the embattled mayor. Montgomery described going to the mayor’s apartment for the first round of questioning, where they played for the mayor secretly recorded tapes of conversations between him and his former friend.
The tapes contained conversations in which the mayor appeared to accept cash from Maria Ljuba, a former insurance broker who testified that she bribed Bencivengo and other town officials in an effort to retain her lucrative contract with the Hamilton school district.
“After we played the tape I remember he kind of slumped in his chair and said, ‘Jeez, this looks pretty bad,’” Montgomery recalled of his conversation with Bencivengo.
“He indicated that … he was ashamed that he took the money,” Montgomery said.
The special agent said the mayor “kind of looked a little stunned and just surprised” about the agents’ questions.
Under further questioning from federal prosecutors, the FBI agent later described how Bencivengo agreed to wear a wire for the FBI to secretly record conversations with Rob Warney, the man authorities say funneled an alleged $5,000 bribe from Ljuba to the mayor.
Montgomery described how the FBI followed the mayor to the LongHorn Steakhouse in Hamilton for an arranged sit-down with Warney. The FBI hoped to record Warney discussing the $5,000 check from Ljuba, Montgomery said.
During cross-examination by Bencivengo’s attorney, Jerome Ballarotto, Montgomery was questioned about why the FBI didn’t record an alleged confession by Bencivengo that the money was accepted as a bribe to use his official duties to influence public policy.
“What could be the most incriminating statements by the mayor himself and you didn’t record it?” Ballarotto asked Montgomery, who replied that it is not the FBI’s policy to record confessions.
On Wednesday, U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) will officially kick-off his re-election campaign with a three-event tour across the state.Read More >
Campaign season now under way in Bergen County Politics is practiced year-round in Bergen County, and street-level campaigning has been going on quietly all summer. But both Republicans and Democrats say the Rutherford Street Fair on Labor Day signals a more intense phase of electioneering. (Ensslin/The Bergen Record) http://www.northjersey.com/news/campaign-season-now-under-way-in-bergen-county-1.1079080 ...
By MICHAEL W. KLEIN In his weekly radio address on August 16, President Obama challenged colleges “to do their part to bring down costs” and lighten the tuition burden on students. The state colleges and universities in New Jersey have... Read More >
"Governor Christie ripped President Obama this summer for failing to carve out some time during a Texas fundraising swing to visit the Mexican border, where the unprecedented flood of immigrant children from Central America had reached a crisis point. ...Yet Christie is not squeezing in a tour of the troubled border during his own three-day trade and diplomatic mission to Mexico, which is set to begin on Wednesday. The governor is planning a series of meetings with Mexican officials, including President Enrique Peña Nieto and the finance and energy ministers." - columnist Charles Stile- The Bergen Record
Press releases are submitted by PolitickerNJ users, not by staff. They do not represent the viewpoint of PolitickerNJ.com.