Waldwick Man Pleaded Guilty to Extortion

A Paterson-based contractor today admitted conspiring with a commissioner of the now-defunct Paterson Municipal Utilities Authority (MUA) to steal funds and pay kickbacks in return for obtaining work from the authority, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

According to reports, Anthony Cacciola, 47, of Waldwick, New Jersey, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Kevin McNulty to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

Cacciola operated a Paterson-based business specializing in fence installation and repair for both commercial and residential properties.

In 2012 he was introduced to Erik Lowe, an MUA commissioner from February 2009 through May 2015, officials say. In this position, Lowe exercised control over the finances of the MUA, which had been created to manage the hydroelectric plant on the Passaic River in Paterson and manage certain surrounding properties.

Officials say that Cacciola admitted that Lowe would inflate the dollar amount of the checks Lowe provided to Cacciola for various MUA contracts well beyond the actual value of the services performed.

Cacciola admitted that this enabled him to kick back to Lowe thousands of dollars in cash for Lowe’s official assistance in directing work to Cacciola, according to authorities. Near the end of the scheme, Cacciola began accepting MUA checks from Lowe worth thousands of dollars knowing that no job had been, or would be, performed.

Reports say that Cacciola accepted a total of $141,700 in MUA checks from Lowe, out of which Cacciola paid tens of thousands of dollars in cash kickbacks to Lowe.

The count to which Cacciola pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. As part of his plea, Cacciola must pay restitution of $89,900, reports say. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 23.

According to officials, Lowe pleaded guilty on May 30, 2018, before former Chief U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares to one count of extortion under color of official right involving the same scheme to which Cacciola today pleaded guilty, and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right pertaining to a separate fraud/kickback scheme involving Paterson MUA funds with Carnell Baskerville.

Lowe is scheduled to be sentenced by Judge McNulty on June 4, reports say. Baskerville was sentenced by Judge Linares on Oct. 23, 2018, to 21 months in prison.

U.S. Attorney Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie, with the investigation leading to todays’ guilty plea.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. McCarren of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.