N.J. mayor faces fraud charges
He squeezed Orange for tabs, state says
TRENTON - Former assemblyman and current Orange Mayor Mims Hackett Jr. was charged yesterday with official misconduct for allegedly billing the city for expenses he never incurred, the state Attorney General's Office said.
Hackett, who is already facing federal corruption charges, allegedly forged receipts for meals at restaurants on trips he took as mayor and submitted them for reimbursement from the poverty-stricken Essex County city.
Gregory H. Paw, the state's criminal justice director, alleged that Hackett, 66, received more than $5,700 for fraudulent expenses.
"We charge that Mayor Hackett shamelessly stole from the city he was sworn to serve at a time when it was struggling to meet its financial obligations and the needs of its residents," said Attorney General Anne Milgram. "We have zero tolerance for such corruption."
Hackett could not be reached for comment. A phone number listed in his name was disconnected. His attorney, John Azzarello, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
Hackett was arrested in September on separate federal bribery charges. He has pleaded not guilty to taking a $5,000 bribe to steer a city contract to an insurance broker. His trial is pending.
About 130 public officials in New Jersey have been convicted on corruption charges since 2002.
Hackett, a Democrat, resigned from the Assembly days after his arrest and lost his bid for re-election as mayor earlier this month. His mayoral term expires July 1.
Hackett was charged yesterday with a second-degree crime that carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine.
The Attorney General's Office said he will appear in Superior Court in Essex County at a later date.
The office alleged Hackett between 2002 and 2006 submitted 16 fraudulent travel-expense vouchers for costs incurred while attending events on behalf of Orange, a city of 35,000 near Newark.
Hackett frequently attached handwritten receipts for meals, as opposed to computer-generated receipts, and wrote the receipts himself, authorities charged.
In other instances, he allegedly submitted fraudulent receipts for restaurant charges imprinted with his credit card, but the charges were not reflected in his credit card records obtained by state investigators.
"He apparently believed that nobody would question his expenses, but fortunately a city employee tipped authorities," Paw said, adding that Hackett's former mayoral executive assistant alerted authorities about questionable vouchers.
In one instance, Hackett dined with an Orange councilman at a restaurant in Indianapolis during a 2004 conference.
The councilman paid the $202.02 bill with his credit card, but Hackett allegedly asked the councilman for an extra copy of the bill and submitted it for reimbursement with his own expenses.
Following the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City in November 2005, Hackett allegedly submitted a receipt imprinted with his credit card for dinners totaling $206.41 at "Lenney's" in Atlantic City.
He submitted another receipt from "Lenney's" from April 2006 with expenses for a conference in Memphis, authorities said.
But the Attorney General's Office said there is no restaurant named Lenney's in either city and the expenses never appeared in Hackett's credit card records.
The Assembly clerk recently asked the treasury officials to collect $11,300 owed to the state by Hackett for more than three months of work he was paid for as a legislator but didn't complete last year after he resigned. *