The following defendants were sentenced today to terms of incarceration by Superior Court Judge Marilyn C. Clark in Paterson. All three are permanently barred from public employment in New Jersey.
In addition, Judge Clark today sentenced Chester Mazza, 75, of Totowa, former assistant superintendent for special services for the PVSC, to one year of probation. Mazza pleaded guilty in May 2012 to fourth-degree theft by unlawful taking, admitting that he had subordinate employees perform work at his home, including installation of a vent or fan in his roof and repairs to a stone wall in his front yard.
“These men arrogantly abused their positions and exploited public workers, vehicles and equipment for their selfish purposes, all at the expense of the taxpayers who fund this state agency,” said Acting Attorney General Porrino. “The sentences imposed today demonstrate our resolve to hold public officials accountable if they abuse their power.”
“These defendants were entrusted with the management of public employees and resources, and they betrayed that trust by using them for personal gain,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We will continue to protect public assets by aggressively investigating and prosecuting corrupt officials like these.”
Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Manis, who is Deputy Bureau Chief, and Deputy Attorney General Peter J. Baker handled the sentencing hearings for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Deputy Attorney General Manis was the lead prosecutor on the case. He tried Bazela and Ardis with Assistant Attorney General Heather Taylor. The charges stem from an investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau North Squad.
The PVSC is a state agency responsible for managing and regulating collection and disposal of wastewater generated in a four-county area along the Passaic Valley River Basin, encompassing parts of Bergen, Passaic, Essex and Hudson counties.
Keogh, Ardis and Mazza were immediately terminated from their positions at the PVSC following their arrests in February 2011. Bazela’s employment at the PVSC also was terminated in 2011.
In pleading guilty, Keogh admitted that between March 2006 and April 2007, he conspired to have PVSC employees perform work at his residence during their regular shifts for the agency. Bazela admitted in connection with his plea that, as foreman, he had carpenters and other skilled employees perform work at Keogh’s home, including installing windows in bedrooms, replacing kitchen cabinet doors and installing lattice-type material under a deck. They used agency vehicles, tools and equipment. PVSC employees built, fit and finished the kitchen cabinet doors at the PVSC facility before installing them at Keogh’s home.
Keogh further admitted that he had PVSC employees perform numerous personal errands for him while on agency time. The investigation determined that the errands included putting up holiday decorations at his home and picking up landscaping items and other personal supplies from Home Depot and Lowe’s, including plants, fertilizer, a propane tank, decorative stone and pool supplies, and delivering them to his home. Keogh also admitted that in 2005, he had mechanics from the PVSC’s vehicle maintenance department replace the motor in the pump for his swimming pool.
Bazela’s trial conviction related to a separate indictment charging that he used his authority as foreman to have on-duty PVSC employees perform personal work on behalf of Ardis. In pleading guilty, Ardis admitted that he conspired with Bazela to have carpenters and other skilled workers go to the homes of Ardis’ mother and girlfriend to complete repairs and improvements while on-duty for the PVSC. They used agency vehicles, tools and equipment. Bazela accompanied the workers in some instances to supervise and assist with the projects. The work performed for Ardis included tearing down sheet rock in the garage of Ardis’ mother, installing a microwave and small wood panels in the mother’s kitchen, and installing air conditioning units at the home of Ardis’ girlfriend.
Acting Attorney General Porrino and Director Honig noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has established a confidential, toll-free tip line 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities. Additionally, the public can log on to the Division of Criminal Justice webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.
Kevin Keogh – James V. Pomaco, The Law Offices of James V. Pomaco, Esq.
Paul Bazela – Peter R. Willis, Peter R. Willis, Esq., LLP
Anthony Ardis – Gregory Aprile, Gregory Aprile, Attorney-at-Law
Chester Mazza – George J. Abdy, Law Offices of Abdy & Kane, P.C.