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New Jersey mayor convicted of bribery and extortion

Trenton New Jersey Mayor Tony Mack (L) and his brother Ralphiel Mack (center) arrive at United States Court in Trenton, New Jersey, January
Trenton New Jersey Mayor Tony Mack (L) and his brother Ralphiel Mack (center) arrive at United States Court in Trenton, New Jersey, January

By Dave Warner

TRENTON, New Jersey (Reuters) - Trenton Mayor Tony Mack was found guilty of federal extortion and bribery charges after being ensnared in a 2010 sting operation involving the development of a parking garage on city-owned property.

The would-be developers were, in fact, government informants.

Under the scheme, the developers would buy city property for the garage for $100,000 less than the value of the land, and the Democratic mayor of New Jersey's capital city would receive money in exchange, prosecutors said.

A jury convicted Mack, 48, on all six charges of bribery, extortion and wire and mail fraud after eight hours of deliberation. He has remained in office during the trial.

City Council President George Muschal, a retired police officer, is expected to be sworn in as the new mayor.

The mayor's brother Ralphiel was accused of acting as a bag man to pick up the bribe money and also was on trial. Prosecutors said the informants offered a bribe of $119,000, about $54,000 of which changed hands.

He was found guilty of extortion and bribery charges.

Judge Michael Shipp set sentencing for May 14 and continued bail for both men. According to the U.S. Attorney's Office, Mack faces a maximum sentence of 110 years behind bars.

Arrested in September 2012, Mack has been accused by critics of nepotism and mismanagement since taking office in 2010 in the crime-plagued, economically depressed city of 85,000 people. He was reportedly deeply in debt at the time of his arrest.

His defense attorneys said there was no proof produced at the trial that Mack ever took a bribe.

"I'm disappointed," Mack's lawyer, Mark Davis, said after the verdict. Neither the Mack brothers nor jurors made any comment as they left the courthouse.

Mack's defense laid the blame on a third man, Joseph Giorgianni, who has pleaded guilty and is a cooperating witness awaiting sentencing.

Prosecutors said the many wire-tapped telephone conversations in the case showed solid evidence of Mack's guilt.

They contended that Mack used other people - his brother and Giorgianni - in an attempt to shield himself from culpability.

(Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst, Edith Honan, Gunna Dickson and Lisa Shumaker)

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