Cherry Hill's former top code inspector admitted yesterday that he accepted cash from a Bucks County business executive trying to secure work with the township.

Anthony Saccomanno, 66, appeared before U.S. District Judge Renee Bumb in Camden, where he admitted taking $4,500 over two years to steer building-inspection contracts to a private company.

"Yes, ma'am," Saccomanno answered as the judge asked whether he took the cash in exchange for his influence to renew township contracts. Saccomanno's family sat quietly in the courtroom as he pleaded guilty to mail fraud and theft of services.

The Cherry Hill resident faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced this fall. He is likely to receive a more lenient sentence because he cooperated with investigators.

Saccomanno, who worked for the township for 31 years, was caught on a federal wiretap in 2007 telling a vice president at Building Inspection Underwriters Inc. that it would take a $2,500 cash payment to ensure the company kept its contract to inspect plumbing, electrical systems, and elevators.

The company had a $240,000 contract in 2008 and performed the work. Despite paying Saccomanno for his influence, the company was not retained in 2009. For health reasons, Saccomanno stopped working full-time in in December, but continued as a part-time building inspector for the township until February.

Dan Keashen, a spokesman for Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt, attended yesterday's hearing and said the township would never knowingly hire a company that manipulated the bidding process. Platt was "absolutely appalled that a public official would engage in this kind of conduct," Keashen said.

Saccomanno's work with investigators led to charges against Russell McLaughlin, 56, who was president of the inspection company. McLaughlin, of Chalfont, has pleaded guilty and faces sentencing in the fall.

Saccomanno said yesterday that he entered a plea agreement in which prosecutors agreed to file a motion suggesting he receive a lighter sentence for his cooperation. The plea did not address whether Saccomanno would serve time in prison.

Bumb scheduled sentencing for Oct. 5 and allowed Saccomanno to remain free on $50,000 bail.

Saccomanno declined to comment through his attorney, Jeffrey Zucker. He is being treated for lung cancer, diabetes, and high blood pressure, Zucker said.

"The bottom line is we're talking about $4,500, and that's it," Zucker said. "We're hopeful he'll receive probation."

Contact staff writer Barbara Boyer at 856-779-3838 or bboyer@phillynews.com.