West New York officials have praised the courage and integrity of a town fire code official whose cooperation with authorities led to the arrest of a contractor who allegedly attempted to bribe the official to suppress $8.7 million in fire code fines.
According to a statement issued by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman, the owner of a general contracting company in West New York was arrested at his home in North Bergen on May 21 by special agents of the FBI.
Victor Coca, 48, of North Bergen, has been charged by criminal complaint with one count of paying a bribe to a local government agent.
According to the complaint, two West New York buildings – one owned by Coca and one owned by a friend of his – had outstanding fines for fire code violations. Coca’s friend’s building – called “Building 1” in the complaint – had approximately $14,500 in fines, and Coca’s building – called “Building 2” in the complaint – had approximately $8.73 million in outstanding fines and penalties.
Coca allegedly paid a West New York Bureau of Fire Prevention official – who is cooperating with the government – cash bribes to reduce or eliminate the outstanding fines, paying $2,000 to eliminate the $14,500 debt on Building 1. For Building 2, Coca allegedly paid a $5,000 cash bribe to the official.
Praise for official
“The actions taken by the town fire code official are praiseworthy and are what should be expected of those we entrust to serve the public,” said Mayor Felix Roque. “The alleged actions taken by Mr. Coca will not be tolerated. Our commitment to serve, enforce local ordinances and protect our residents cannot be bought. We will remain vigilant in this regard as such acts have no place in my administration.”
Coca recently held a political fundraiser in West New York which Roque attended along with a number of other prominent officials from WNY. He also said the fundraiser was not specifically for him.
“The actions taken by the town fire code official are praise worthy and what should be expected of those we entrust to serve the public.” – Mayor Felix Roque.
“[Which is] something many people seem to have difficulty with, especially elected officials,” Munoz added. “This fire official protected the integrity of his office, his personal integrity, and the public he was sworn to protect.”
Munoz said, “This alleged action by Mr. Coca has no room in our society. What makes this alleged offense even more egregious is the presumption of method taken by Mr. Coca in camouflaging his [alleged] actions under the guise of creating a Super PAC [political action committee] which raises and spends money for an election in order to defeat candidates of the opposition.”
According to the indictment, Coca, owner of YYY Enterprise, met with the fire officials several times in March at both the company’s West New York office and a work site. The fire official wore a recording device and the meeting was audio and video recorded. During a meeting on March 27, Coca allegedly gave cash to the fire official. At several meetings in April, also recorded, Coca allegedly talked about and allegedly made additional payments to lower fines on the two buildings, one on Hudson Avenue and another on Bergenline Avenue.
The charge carries maximum potential penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, or twice the gain or loss from the offense.
Al Sullivan may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.