Public Notices and Press Releases

Essex County Resident Pleads Guilty in $470k Condo Complex Fraud Scheme

Montclair Man Admits Role in Defrauding Jersey City Condominium Owner in Elaborate Kickback Operation

An Essex County individual, Jonathan Smith, 56, from Montclair, New Jersey, has confessed to participating in a fraudulent kickback scheme, culminating in a $470,000 loss for a condominium complex owner in Jersey City. This admission was part of a statement released by U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger.

Smith entered his guilty plea to a charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Karen M. Williams in Camden, marking a pivotal moment in the ongoing investigation into the corrupt dealings that plagued the Jersey City condominium complex from November 2018 through July 2020.

The operation involved Smith, alongside his co-conspirators Nathaniel Obedos and Ranaldo Bennett, manipulating contracts and financial transactions to their advantage. Bennett, who managed the property, and Smith, the superintendent, were found to have directed repair and maintenance tasks to Obedos and his enterprise. This trio orchestrated a scheme where they inflated invoices for Obedos's services, facilitating kickbacks funded by the overpayments from the condominium complex.

The complex was deceived into paying over $1 million for services purportedly worth only half that amount, with Obedos channeling $460,000 and $30,000 of these overpayments to Bennett and Smith, respectively, as kickbacks.

The legal repercussions for Smith could be severe, with a potential 20-year prison sentence and fines up to $250,000 or double the gross gain or loss from the offense. His sentencing is anticipated on June 10, 2024.

This case underscores the vigilant efforts of the FBI, led by Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy in Newark, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office Economic Crimes Unit, represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Blake Coppotelli, in bringing to light and addressing corruption that undermines the integrity of property management and financial transactions in New Jersey.

As the legal process continues, particularly regarding Ranaldo Bennett, who faces similar charges and is currently awaiting trial, it's important to remember that the allegations against him are accusations at this stage. He remains presumed innocent until proven guilty, ensuring the principles of justice are upheld throughout this investigation.

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