Wednesday, September 19, 2018

'Hand in the cookie jar' political consultant sentenced to four years in prison for her role in Watershed fraud

Karen Yi reports for NJ.com:
A former political consultant in Essex County was sentenced to four years in federal prison Tuesday for her role in defrauding the now-defunct nonprofit in charge of treating water for parts of northern New Jersey. 
Dianthe Martinez-Brooks, 48, of West Orange, previously pleaded guilty to wire fraud, admitting she submitted bloated invoices to the Newark Watershed Conservation and Development Corp. for work that was never performed and gave the money as kickbacks to top officials at the agency. 
"This is probably one of the worst days of my life," Martinez-Brooks said before U.S. District Court Judge Jose Linares, as she wiped tears away with a tissue. 
"I've spent my life helping people stay out of trouble yet I find myself standing here ... I'm sorry that I find myself before you today," she said. 
Her sentencing Tuesday marks the latest in the corruption case against a roster of officials and consultants at the watershed corporation, who have been sentenced or charged in a million-dollar scheme that ultimately sunk the agency. 
Federal prosecutors said Martinez-Brooks was part of the inner circle at the watershed, serving as an advisor through her political consulting company, DMart127 LLC. Between May 2011 and March 2013, she recruited an unnamed relative of hers and West Orange businessman Kevin Gleaton to do work that was never performed. Altogether, she secured $226,666 in phony contracts -- including money she paid out to herself.
Martinez-Brooks' company received $131,000, of which only $43,000 was for work she did, prosecutors said. The rest was kicked back to the former director of the watershed, Linda Watkins Brashear, and Donald Bernard Sr., special projects manager for the watershed. Both are in prison. 
"This kind of corruption can't be allowed to exist and can't be allowed to permeate in the city of Newark," Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacques Pierre said in court. He said Martinez-Brooks played a role in bringing the watershed "down to its knees."
The watershed corporation dissolved in 2013 and filed for bankruptcy. 
Martinez-Brooks is the eighth person to be sentenced in the scheme; a former Newark police officer, Janell Robinson, of Newark, was indicted in March. Her case is still pending. 

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