Mayor Salvatore Bonaccorso Faces Charges Related to His Alleged Use of Township Property and Employees to Run His Business and Alleged Filing of False and Fraudulent Permit Applications to Improperly Remove Hundreds of Underground Storage Tanks
TRENTON — Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin and the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) today announced the filing of criminal charges against the longtime Mayor of Clark Township, alleging Salvatore Bonaccorso submitted false and fraudulent paperwork to nearly two-dozen municipalities, in order to facilitate his landscaping company’s improper removal of hundreds of underground storage tanks (USTs).
Bonaccorso, 63, of Clark, New Jersey, was also charged on November 20, 2023, with official misconduct, after an investigation by the OPIA Corruption Bureau found that, while acting in his official capacity as the mayor, Bonaccorso allegedly operated his tank-removal business out of his township office utilizing municipal resources, by storing and maintaining the records for the business at the Mayor’s office, using township devices including computers and fax machines, and directing township employees to perform duties while working for the township, solely for the purpose of running his private business.
During the course of the investigation, OPIA also discovered, and it is alleged, that the defendant and his landscaping and underground storage tank company, Bonaccorso & Son LLC, fraudulently used an engineer’s name, license number, as well as, in many cases, forging the engineer’s signature on permit applications submitted to municipalities for tank removals — knowing that the engineer was neither supervising nor in any way involved in those projects, and without any legally required tank inspections actually taking place at those job sites. In fact, it is alleged that neither Bonaccorso nor his company have the necessary underground-storage-tank-removal license required to do such work.
A review of permit applications submitted by Bonaccorso and his company revealed that Bonaccorso, Clark’s mayor since 2001, allegedly misrepresented to municipalities that the engineer was the on-site supervisor of the removal work, as required by New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP) regulations, for all of the tank removals done by Bonaccorso & Son.
New Jersey law prohibits any individual from doing work on unregulated heating-oil tank systems unless the individual is certified or working under the immediate, on-site supervision of a person who is certified. NJDEP rules state that whether a tank is removed or abandoned-in-place, the job must be conducted by a contractor certified for underground storage tank closure, who is working for a closure-certified underground storage tank firm.
The investigation revealed, and it is alleged that, Bonaccorso arranged to have the engineer obtain a UST license and insurance, and then also directly paid to maintain both. It is alleged that the value of the removal jobs associated with the fraudulent permits submitted by Bonaccorso between 2017 and 2023 amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Bonaccorso has also been charged with witness tampering, for allegedly advising a witness being interviewed by state investigators to provide false information, after he learned of the State’s investigation.
“Any elected leader who abuses his power and position and misuses public property and public employees for his own benefit, at taxpayers’ expense, betrays the public’s trust,” said Attorney General Platkin. “In this instance, the complaint charges that the defendant also abused the trust of officials in other towns, allegedly submitting fraudulent documents with forged signatures to enrich his company while circumventing New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection regulations.”
“Our complaint alleges the mayor was committing criminal acts for many years to enable his company to offer services it was not authorized or permitted to perform,” said Thomas J. Eicher, Executive Director of OPIA. “The people’s faith and confidence in government is eroded when public officials act improperly, and my office will continue its diligent work to root out corruption.”
Bonaccorso is charged with the following:
- Official misconduct (2nd degree)
- Tampering with public records or information (3rd degree)
- Witness tampering (3rd degree)
- Forgery (4th degree)
- Falsifying or tampering with records (4th degree)
Deputy Attorney General Lisa A. Queen is prosecuting the case for the OPIA Corruption Bureau under the supervision of Corruption Bureau Chief Peter Lee, OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione and OPIA Executive Director Eicher.
Second-degree charges potentially carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000. Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Fourth-degree offenses could lead to up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
These charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Michael Robertson, Esq.