Workforce.com

New Jersey State Official Took $1.9 Million in Bribes From Staffing Firms

March 31, 2009
A senior investigator with the New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development pleaded guilty Monday, March 30, to accepting almost $1.9 million in bribes from at least 20 owners and operators of temporary staffing firms and tax evasion, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey.

One staffing worker pleaded guilty to paying bribes.

The investigator, Joseph Rivera, 53, of Winslow, New Jersey, was responsible for inspecting temporary labor firms in southern New Jersey for compliance with state wage and hour laws and other regulations.

However, in exchange for bribes, Rivera agreed to not inspect the firms, and falsely certified them, according to the office. He also recommended them to other businesses as firms that should be hired.

Rivera calculated the amount of bribe payments by multiplying by 25 cents the total number of hours worked by a temporary staffing firm’s employees, according to the office.

Rivera also admitted that he claimed taxable income of approximately $89,696 in 2007 when his total taxable income was $499,176.

Rivera will forfeit money and property equal to almost $1.9 million as part of his plea, according to the office. Those items include $120,400 in cash; two Ocean City, New Jersey, properties; a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, property; a 2008 Lexus ES 350; eight gold plates; and gold and silver coins.

He faces a maximum sentence of 10 years on the bribery charge and a fine of $250,000 or twice any gain to the defendant or loss to any victim, whichever is greater. The tax evasion charge carries a maximum sentence of five years and a $250,000 fine.

Also Monday, Yohan Wongso, 27, of Philadelphia, pleaded guilty to paying bribes to Rivera and James Peyton, another field investigator for the New Jersey Department of Labor.

Wongso faces up to 10 years on the bribery charge and a fine of $250,000 or twice any gain to the defendant or loss to any victim, whichever is greater.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office also said that it filed charges against Peyton, 71, with one count of solicitation and acceptance of a bribe.

Peyton allegedly began accepting bribes in 2005 and took as much as $8,000 in cash per quarter. Peyton’s responsibilities included auditing employer books and records.

The office also said it filed charges against Channavel “Danny” Kong, 37, and Thuan Nguyen, 37, both of Philadelphia, with making bribes to Rivera to avoid audits of their temporary staffing firms.

Kong operated a firm called Sunrise Labor. Nguyen operated N&T Staffing Inc. and was also involved with the firms JNT General Services Inc. and K&B Staffing Inc.

—Staffing Industry Analysts