State Investigator Took Bribes From Temp Agencies

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Camden, NJ—A Department of Labor investigator pleaded guilty in federal court to accepting nearly $2 million in bribes.

Joseph Rivera, a senior investigator whose duties included auditing temporary employment agencies, was charged with taking bribes in return for certification. Rivera’s responsibilities included inspecting the agencies to ensure that they were in compliance with state labor laws, carried workers’ compensation insurance, and paid all state and federal taxes. Prosecutors say that Rivera accepted bribes in exchange for looking the other way when agencies were not in compliance.

Rivera admitted to having taken bribes from 20 employment firms since 2002, amassing more than $1.8 million in case, a Lexus automobile, gold plates and silver bars, a valuable coin collection, and two homes, one in Ocean City, NJ and one in Fort Lauderdale, FL.

Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra said that Rivera, 53, was “driven by pure greed.” A ledger was found in his home listing the payments he had taken, which investigators said he calculated by charging 25 cents for every hour the firms’ employees worked.

Several temporary-employment agency owners and employees were also named in the scandal, and have pleaded guilty to bribery.

Two Philadelphia men, Channavel “Danny” Kong and Thuan Nguyen, had given payments of $47,000 and $130,000, respectively, according to the ledger found in Rivera’s home. Yohan Wongso, 27, also pleaded guilty yesterday to offering bribes on behalf of several temporary agencies.

All three men were released or allowed to remain free on $50,000 bond.

James Peyton, 71, a Department of Labor field investigator who worked in the same office as Rivera, was also charged with accepting bribes. Peyton was caught on tape accepting bribes from Wongso.

Rivera, who earned a salary from the state of $68,000, reportedly recommended the agencies whose owners bribed him to employers, giving them an unfair advantage over companies who were in compliance with all state labor laws.

Rivera, who pleaded guilty to tax evasion as well as to taking the bribes, faces up to 15 years in prison.

State Department of Labor Commissioner David J. Socolow stated that the department was “pursuing the process of suspending” the two men charged, with the intent of firing them.

 

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