Three years after the conviction of Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna on extortion and tax evasion charges, the tiny waterfront town is filled with rumors regarding the former mayor’s release from prison.
Delle Donna and his wife, Anna, were convicted in 2008 on charges of accepting small gifts (including money for a terrier dog) and illegal campaign contributions, largely from a local bar owner. Compared to numerous other political corruption convictions in New Jersey, the Delle Donna case was controversial because the key witness against him, former area bar owner Luisa Medrano, was allowed to escape with six months of house arrest and three years’ probation after being accused of importing illegal immigrants and using them as virtual sex slaves in her bars. Medrano testified against Delle Donna and received a short sentence in exchange for her cooperation.
Delle Donna was transferred to Butner for “some type of treatment.”
Medrano pleaded guilty in 2006 to harboring illegal immigrants and tax evasion. It was said that the immigrants were sexually abused and forced to work in the bars in order to pay off their debts for being smuggled into the United States.
Medrano was granted probation by U.S. District Judge Joel Pisano in Trenton. She was allowed to work in a restaurant rather than spend the 24 to 30 months in jail she had been facing. Medrano also paid approximately $250,000 in back taxes.
The 2007 indictment of the Delle Donnas, signed by U.S. Attorney Christie, states that the David and Anna Delle Donna “did knowingly and willfully conspire and agree with each other to commit an offense against the United States.” It also states that the Delle Donnas used the “United States mails for the purpose of executing a scheme and artifice to defraud and to obtain money and property from the Committees and their contributors....”
Medrano testified that she gave the couple face cream, a garage storage system, bottles of Grand Marnier liqueur, money for gambling in Atlantic City, money for breast surgery, and half the cost of a terrier dog.
Some said the relationship between the Delle Donnas and Medrano was a two-way friendship, with gifts often exchanged between the two parties. Prosecutors said the gifts meant that the Delle Donnas would look the other way regarding activities at her bars.
“My parents are sitting in jail for receiving a dog and bottles of Grand Marnier from a friend,” complained Joseph Tavano, the Delle Donnas’ son, in a 2009 article in the Reporter. Tavano also felt that the crimes committed by Medrano were much more severe than those of his parents.
Della Donna’s mother, Dorothy, who lives in North Bergen, penned a handwritten letter of outrage to the Reporter saying, “[Medrano] will be spending time with her family with a slight tap on the wrist, while Anna and David, who she manipulated, will spend years in separate facilities, thousands of miles away from their children, grandson, and parents. Once again, I question our judicial system who allowed this. Shame! Shame!”
Medrano’s probation is scheduled to end Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012.
Local residents such as Mike Deluca, a former board member of the Galaxy Towers and administrator of the popular Galaxyfacts website, believe that Medrano has sold her three bars in the area. The Hudson County Probation Division declined to provide any information on Medrano’s current whereabouts last week. Current Mayor Gerald Drasheff also declined to comment on the matter.
According to Federal Bureau of Prisons Spokesman Edmond Ross, David Delle Donna will be released from the Otisville, N.Y. prison on Saturday, Sept. 15, 2012. Ross declined to state whether Delle Donna will be released to a halfway house before then, although rumors have said that this will happen in the near future.
“Typically, inmates go to some form of community corrections for the last portion of their sentence,” said Ross, who also stated that “it would not be unusual for him [Delle Donna] to go to a halfway house.”
Ross also shared the timetable of Delle Donna’s imprisonment. He was first sent to prison in Ashland, Ky. to start Jan. 5, 2009. He was designated to a facility in Butner, N.C. on May 5, 2009. A medical facility, Delle Donna had been transferred to Butner for “some type of treatment,” according to Ross.
After two months, Delle Donna was transported back to Ashland. He then went to a halfway house on Aug. 26, 2010. Since then, according to local residents, Delle Donna has been able to alternate between a halfway house and the Otisville prison.
Near holidays, Delle Donna is typically released to the halfway house, according to sources. His next halfway house visit is scheduled to be Dec. 21, according to sources.
Members of the Delle Donna family could not be reached for comment by press time.
Stephen LaMarca may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.