TRENTON - A Democratic leader in the New Jersey Assembly has been charged with public corruption for allegedly abusing his former position as Perth Amboy's mayor by using city money for personal expenses such as his son's basketball camps and refreshments served after his father's funeral.
Prosecutors also accuse Joseph Vas of rigging a lottery so his driver would win.
In an 11-count indictment, Vas, 54, is charged with conspiracy, official misconduct, bid-rigging and record tampering. Attorney General Anne Milgram announced the charges at a news conference yesterday.
"Joseph Vas took an oath as mayor to honestly and faithfully serve his city, but instead he shamelessly exploited his position for personal gain," Milgram said.
Vas, the Assembly's deputy majority leader, has not been arrested. He will plead not guilty, said his lawyer, Alan Zegas. "We will vigorously contest the charges," Zegas said.
Milgram said Vas is accused of billing $5,000 in personal expenses to the City of Perth Amboy, including $289 for refreshments served after his father's funeral and $1,450 in basketball-camp fees for his son.
"This is over $1,400 in city taxpayer money that was spent so that Vas' son could learn to play basketball courtesy of the residents of Perth Amboy, many of whom can't afford to send their own kids to basketball camp," Milgram said.
Prosecutors also say Vas rigged a public-housing lottery in favor of his personal driver. According to the charges, Vas arranged for an index card with his driver's name to be selected in what was supposed to be a random drawing among 40 participants, entitling the driver to buy low-income housing through a first-time buyers' program.
The driver, Anthony S. Jones, 48, of Perth Amboy, also was indicted.
Vas was mayor of Perth Amboy, in Middlesex County, for 18 years, ending last year. He remains on the planning board and redevelopment agency.