It was also revealed during the jury selection process that the federal government prosecutors plan to use tape recorded conversations made by former West New York Police Chief Alexander Oriente as part of its case against the 42-year-old Abreu.
Prosecutors wouldn't reveal what information the tapes may provide, nor would they say whether Oriente would be called to the witness stand to testify against Abreu.
Abreu is being charged with several counts of federal extortion, including bank fraud, bribery, money laundering, mail fraud, illegal cash redistribution and other counts.
Almost two years to the date after receiving the federal indictment, Abreu appeared in U.S. District Court in Newark last week, as the jury selection began in the trial that could last for as long as four months, according to presiding U.S. District Court Judge Joseph Greenaway.
The original 70-page, 45-count indictment, presented by federal officials in May of 2002, named 11 people as part of a conspiracy involving Abreu's Guttenberg-based companies The Mortgage Pros, Inc., Abreu Real Estate and RLA Homes.
Six of the original defendants have already pleaded guilty to the charges and will avoid trial, including Abreu's wife, Lourdes Adan-Abreu. Four others, including a former vice president at Hudson United Bank, stand trial at the same time with Abreu.
Abreu's wife pleaded guilty earlier this year to falsifying her 1996 personal income tax return, claiming some $70,000 in unsubstantiated improvements to a home in Bergen County (Old Tappan) that she previously owned with Abreu.
The couple now resides in Fort Lee.
In exchange for her guilty plea, other charges against Adan-Abreu have since been dropped.
The evidence against Abreu that pertains to disgraced former police chief Oriente, whose testimony in 1999 was the crux of what is believed to have uncovered the largest police corruption case in state history, could be severely damaging to Abreu, who has maintained his innocence in any money laundering and bribery scheme involving the police.
"I'm certainly going to say that Rene is a legitimate businessman," said Abreu's attorney, the Newark-based Gerald Krovatin. "This is just the rehashing of old lies and stale allegations. It all stems from one disgraced official, former Chief Oriente, making allegations in the past. There is no reason in this hyper-technical accounting world to add these new allegations. They seized all records once [in June 1997], so the investigation has been ongoing for seven years. My client has not cooperated with authorities and will never cooperate.
Added Krovatin, "There were deposits into banks and the rest are business records. There haven't been any specific charges. Rene steadfastly maintains his innocence and refuses to let any of these overtures get to him. He came here as an immigrant as a kid with nothing and basically, he's the American dream. He looks forward to the day in court, the day that he gets to clear his name. After conducting an investigation for five years, with four different U.S. Attorneys, it was inevitable. After spending all that time and resources, this is all that they came up with. It's unfounded."
When the indictment was handed down against Abreu in May of 2002, U.S. Attorney Christopher Christie said that Abreu was also charged with taking protection money for an illegal gambling operation from Oriente "on behalf of a high level West New York public official."
In the indictment, the public official is not named, but Oriente testified in his highly volatile police corruption trial five years ago that he regularly gave Abreu $2,000 a week and believed it was being funneled to Sires.
Oriente, as well as 24 other police officers, pleaded guilty to the charges of accepting bribes as part of illegal gambling operations in the town. Oriente served three years in prison for his involvement in the illegal activity.
Sires was never mentioned or questioned as part of the Oriente trial, or as part of this current investigation that led to the indictment against his long-time friend Abreu.
"I honestly don't know what this is all about," Sires said after the Abreu indictment was handed down. "It all comes from the other trial. He said he gave Rene money and he presumed that it went upstairs to me. That's obviously not true."
Abreu has been known as a long-time Democratic fundraiser, having served on the fundraising committees of Rep. Robert Menendez and Sen. Robert Torricelli. He was also one of many local developers who contributed money to the campaign of former Hoboken Mayor Anthony Russo in 1997. Abreu has also been a political supporter of Sires, as well as a long-time friend.
According to the investigating attorneys, Assistant U.S. Attorneys Carlos Ortiz and Deborah Goldklang, the charges against Abreu stem from activity beginning in September, 1992 through February, 2001. Many of the loans stem from properties in North Bergen and West New York.
The counts allege that Abreu and other employees and associates of The Mortgage Pros, Inc. fraudulently submitted fictitious loan-related documents to several financial institutions to induce the institutions to issue residential and commercial loans to clients of The Mortgage Pros, Inc.
Also charged was Luis Nieves of Leonia, who was a senior vice president for Hudson United Bank. The indictment accuses Nieves of allegedly accepting a bribe assisting Abreu to obtain commercial loans. Nieves is also charged with allegedly assisting Abreu in a check kiting scheme, spanning five years, which, at times, created a negative balance of more than $1 million in Abreu's business and personal accounts. Nieves is also charged with money laundering. Nieves worked for 13 years at Hudson United Bank, specializing in loans and mortgages.
Others standing trial include two North Bergen residents, Ana Martell and Kathy Giunta, also former employees of Abreu.
Another count of the indictment alleges that Abreu and co-worker Manuel "Manny" Mier of Hillside demanded and accepted from Oriente a bribe and protection money from the proceeds of the video gambling business of Boardwalk Amusements, a West New York business.
Boardwalk Amusements had allegedly been conducting illegal gambling operations with the knowledge and protection of the West New York Police Department. From June 1995 to July 1997, Abreu and Mier allegedly received cash payments from Oriente and others, saying that they were acting on behalf of the unnamed high-ranking official.
In September of 2002, Mier pleaded guilty to acting at times as a middleman in those transactions, funneling the cash to Abreu from Oriente. Mier is cooperating with the authorities in the case.
Someone else to watch in the prosecution's case could be Valeriano Sanchez of Parsippany, the former loan and real estate agent for Mortgage Pros. Sanchez pleaded guilty earlier this year to mail fraud and agreed to testify against Abreu, if necessary. Eugenio Vasquez, a former business partner of Abreu and the past president of the North Hudson Kiwanis Club, also pleaded guilty last month for failing to file an income tax return and could testify against Abreu.
Jury selection should continue through the week, with opening statements slated to begin in the trial on Tuesday.