On Monday, federal officials reported that a longtime Democratic political operative had pled guilty to federal charges related to a plot to defraud campaigns and political action groups in New Jersey by over-billing them.
U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey Phillip Sellinger said in a statement that Antonio “Tony” Teixeira, 43, of Elizabeth, pled guilty before a judge on one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of tax evasion.
According to court documents and testimony, between 2014 and 2018, Teixeira and fellow political consultant Sean Caddle plotted to steal $107,800 from numerous political campaigns, PACs, and tax-exempt social welfare groups.
Authorities claim that Teixeira did not disclose his illegal earnings on tax returns he submitted to the Internal Revenue Service. Caddle, a veteran political operative in Jersey City, pled guilty earlier this year to his role in a plot to kill a close friend.
The charges against Teixeira are unrelated to the one in question. Teixeira, a longstanding political powerhouse in Union County, New Jersey, resigned last month as chief of staff to Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, president of the state Senate.
Teixeira had held the position since 2018. Teixeira served as chief of staff to former D-Union state senator Ray Lesniak and also led the local Elizabeth Democratic Party. During the course of the project, he was employed by Lesniak.
On Monday, authorities said they had evidence that Lesniak had recruited Caddle to establish political action committees (PACs) and nonprofit 501(c)(4)s in order to raise and spend money on a number of causes and political campaigns around New Jersey.
Authorities claim that in his role as Lesniak’s chief of staff, Teixeira had significant input into the selection of consultants for campaigns and organizations as well as their allocation of funding.
Authorities allege that Teixeira and Caddle plotted to submit inflated invoices to the organizations on behalf of Caddle’s consultancy firms by including fictitious expenses. Caddle’s real campaign expenditures were less than the alleged overage,
so the two allegedly decided to share the difference. A portion of Teixeira’s share was allegedly paid to him in cash, while Caddle concealed the remainder by having checks written to Teixeira’s family members.
Legal counsel John Lynch told NJ Advance Media on Monday that Teixeira “made a mistake getting connected with Sean Caddle.” Lynch, who lives in Union City, has said, “He’s accepted responsibility for it and he’s accepted the penalties.”
In exchange for Teixeira’s guilty plea, prosecutors dropped four counts of tax evasion. Under the terms of the agreement, he must repay the $107,800 as well as pay the IRS an additional $47,353 to cover the tax on the undisclosed income.
According to the authorities, Teixeira may spend up to twenty years in jail on wire fraud accusations and up to five years on tax evasion convictions. There is a potential $250,000 penalty for either offense or twice the greater of the gross gain or loss incurred as a result of the plan.
The court has set his sentence date for March 27, 2023. Not involved in the scheme, Lesniak claims Teixeira “defrauded me.” The former state senator said of him to NJ Advance Media, “He was a trusted employee.”
A dissatisfied voice said, “It’s disappointing.” Lesniak agreed, saying, “It’s a sad day.” On Monday, Scutari, who was not involved in the scam, chose not to elaborate. Referring to a speech he made last month, the Senate president said of Texeira, “he has served the public in many wonderful positions and is a friend, nonetheless, he erred.”
Scutari then stated, “I am delighted Tony is assuming responsibility for his personal financial conduct.” Residents deserve the greatest standards, and public officials should be without reproach, whether they are elected or appointed.