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Lakewood, Pay-to-play

Indictment: Corrupt Lakewood Inspector Took Bribes From Contractors

Mitchell Perkins

State officials announced Wednesday that a former Lakewood electrical code inspector has been indicted for allegedly taking multiple bribes from area contractors in exchange for preferential treatment. He is further accused of signing off on work that wasn’t actually inspected

A joint investigation by the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Bureau South Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau led to the issuance of a state grand jury indictment against 67-year-old Mitchell B. Perkins.

Mitchell Perkins

Mitchell Perkins

The Stafford Township resident formerly employed as an electrical code inspector in Lakewood was charged Wednesday in the indictment with one count of bribery, two counts of official misconduct, two counts of acceptance or receipt of an unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior, and one count of pattern of official misconduct. All of the aforementioned charges are in the 2nd degree.

“Bribes, at any level of government, undermine public confidence in government,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to aggressively prosecute any officials who corruptly use their public positions for personal gain.”

If convicted, the defendant could face a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison – including a mandatory five-year period of parole ineligibility – along with a fine of up to $150,000.

The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Mary C. Jacobson in Mercer County, who later assigned the case to Ocean County. Mr. Perkins has a pending arraignment, to be held in Ocean County.

In connection with these criminal allegations, Mr. Perkins was arrested on September 25, 2015, in the wake of his arrest and subsequently “retired” from his job in Lakewood, according to a state Attorney General’s Office statement.

The investigation commenced after the New Jersey State Police received a tip that Perkins was taking bribes from contractors. The former Lakewood official is accused of accepting four separate payments of $300 from an electrical contractor in exchange for “preferential treatment.”

Taking a page right out of Solomon Dwek‘s playbook, the contractor offering the bribes was working as a cooperating witness, unbeknownst to Perkins. The informant gave him just enough rope to hang himself.

Here’s what happened, according to the Attorney General’s Office:

“The contractor was working as a cooperating witness for the State Police at the time and requested that Perkins inspect his work more quickly. Perkins returned the first payment, but he allegedly kept the three later payments.”

“It is alleged that, after the first payment, Perkins, who previously had inordinately delayed inspections of the contractor’s works sites, began to conduct timely inspections of his work sites. On one occasion, Perkins allegedly approved electrical work performed by the contractor without first inspecting the work. Afterwards, Perkins allegedly accepted the fourth $300 payment.”

The corrupt behavior of the former inspector dates back to 1997, when state law enforcement officials say “…he allegedly accepted other payments from contractors to influence the performance of his work as an electrical sub-code official and inspector for Lakewood Township. ”

State law enforcement officials have established a corruption tip line, where concerned citizens can anonymously report allegations of corruption to the Attorney General’s office and Division of Criminal Justice. The tip line can be reached by calling 1-866-TIPS-4CJ.

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