Fraud is alive and well in government politics, but thankfully, one more conviction can help slow the fraud machine. Sharpe James, the 72 year-old former mayor of Newark who was in office for 20 years, was convicted yesterday on five fraud and conspiracy charges for selling city-owned property at far less than their value.
The now 39 year-old buyer of the properties, Tamika Riley, is referred to as his “former companion.” She was convicted on the same fraud and conspiracy charges, plus eight tax-related charges. James and Riley will each face 8 years in prison according to the federal sentencing guidelines, but the sentences could be even higher.
This case revolved around nine properties that were owned by the city. Riley bought them through a program that was meant to help revitalize the city through property rehabilitation. She bought the properties for a total of $46,000 and almost immediately sold them for $600,000. She never made any renovations or improved them, even though that is what the city program required.
Riley had a six-month affair with James in 2002, the time during which she was buying and selling the property for the extraordinary profits. She then took the fraud one step further by not reporting the income from the sale of the properties on her taxes.
The case against James was a little harder to prove, as he apparently did not receive a direct economic benefit from the land sales. The prosecutors also had to prove that James played a significant part in Riley getting the land so cheaply.
Sentencing is forthcoming. As well as a trial on other charges against James. It’s alleged that he used a city credit card to spend $58,000 on trips with mistresses.