They are looking to see whether certain Housing Authority employees skipped a wait list to give themselves housing, and whether employees took furniture meant to go into public housing.
According to a reliable source involved with the investigation, federal officers have been looking at records from the office of Diane Peirano-Ingvaldsen, the long-time executive director of the North Bergen Housing Authority.
Peirano-Ingvaldsen denied that there was a federal investigation.
"Absolutely not," Peirano-Ingvaldsen said. "There was no FBI investigation. They didn't come in and take anything. I have no idea where this is coming from."
Peirano-Ingvaldsen is the niece of Town Commissioner Theresa Ferraro, who remains the chairperson of the Housing Authority Board of Commissioners and was formerly in charge of the Housing Authority before Peirano-Ingvaldsen took over seven years ago.
Peirano-Ingvaldsen declined to comment further.
But Housing Authority Attorney Richard Anastasi said he knew of the investigation.
"Sure, it exists," Anastasi said. "But our people have cooperated and our records have been left open. I challenge them to come and take a look. They'll find nothing. I know that they're acting on an anonymous phone call from a disgruntled ex-employee."
He added, "The allegations are ludicrous. We'll stand by our record. I even invited them to come in and check out everything. It's getting so frustrating that these individuals will act on an anonymous phone call."
He said the current management of the Housing Authority has turned things around there.
"I've been involved with this housing authority for 17 years, and it has gone from one of the poorest run organizations to one of the top three in the state," Anastasi said. "This is not the first time that people have made allegations."
According to the source, the investigation began after the U.S. Attorney's office received information about the Housing Authority allegedly purchasing new furniture for its buildings, but instead of the furniture ending up in the community rooms, the furniture allegedly went to some of the employees' homes.
Another side to the investigation centers on whether the Housing Authority circumvented the waiting list for income-qualified potential residents and gave available units to Housing Authority employees.
Both of those allegations would be federal crimes, because the North Bergen Housing Authority has to abide by strict federal Housing and Urban Development (HUD) guidelines.
1,500 units of housing
The North Bergen Housing Authority oversees approximately 1,500 units of low-income housing for the township, and is a separate and autonomous agency from the operations of the township.
Anastasi said that no one could have altered the waiting list in order to secure an apartment.
"There are so many rules and regulations that have to be followed," Anastasi said. "There's a list, and it's checked and double-checked. You can't get around it. It's computerized and is looked after by the federal government."
Anastasi also claimed that the furniture allegation is "absurd."
"When they purchased new furniture and once we signed the contract, the vendor was supposed to take the old furniture away," Anastasi said. "We didn't even put the old furniture out for bid. It was part of the contract with the vendor to take the old furniture away when the new things were brought in." Anastasi had one more thing to say about the investigation.
"It's a huge waste of taxpayers' money," Anastasi said. "There really is nothing there."
A representative from the U.S. Attorney's Office in Newark said that they had no comment about any ongoing investigation.
It was the same office that launched the investigation seven years ago into possible corrupt activity in the township that led to the convictions and/or guilty pleas of several township officials, including former township administrator Joseph Auriemma and former commissioner Peter Perez.
Those two were involved with the illegal use of a heating/air conditioning vendor who was contracted to do work for the township and then later did work on their private homes. Both Auriemma and Perez received prison sentences for their involvement.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com