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Home » Department of Labor » New Jersey Labor Department Investigator Admits To Taking $1.8 Million In Bribes From Owners Of Temporary Labor Firms He Was Hired To Investigate

New Jersey Labor Department Investigator Admits To Taking $1.8 Million In Bribes From Owners Of Temporary Labor Firms He Was Hired To Investigate

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Andrew Frisch

As reported in The Star-Ledger on March 31, 2009:

“A New Jersey Labor Department investigator from Camden County admitted on Monday to taking some $1.8 million in bribes from owners of temporary labor firms he was hired to investigate.

A second investigator, who lives in Salem, was also charged in the scheme that allegedly involved these men looking the other way when these agencies broke the law.

Joseph Rivera, 53, of Winslow, a senior investigator for the state, pleaded guilty to soliciting and accepting a bribe, and tax evasion.

Also charged in this scandal was 71-year-old James Peyton, a field investigator with the Department of Labor. Police believe the Salem man began accepting cash bribes in 2005 and took as much as $8,000 in cash each quarter.

“The conduct described by two of these defendants … was driven by pure greed,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra. “Mr. Rivera’s corrupt actions lined his own pockets, and provided temporary labor firms with an unwarranted advantage against those employers who operate lawfully.”

The owner of one of these temp businesses also pleaded guilty Monday, and two others were charged for their alleged involvement.

As a senior investigator, Rivera was responsible for inspecting temporary labor firms with workers in southern New Jersey to verify their compliance with state wage and hour laws.

Federal prosecutors said in a court document that Rivera charged temporary employment agencies 25 cents per hour their employees worked not to notice irregularities with their tax withholdings and other payroll violations. He also would recommend these temp agencies to companies looking for workers.

Between 2002 and 2008, Rivera said he raked in $1.86 million from 20 firms.

He also admitted to trying to cover up this scheme by filing false tax returns.

For tax year 2007, Rivera claimed on a tax return that he had $89,696 in taxable income, when, in fact, his total taxable income was nearly $500,000.

These companies provide workers to other firms for a flat hourly rate with the agreement they are responsible for making sure the workers are documented, withholding payroll taxes, and covered with worker’s compensation insurance.

By getting these investigators to look the other way on some of these responsibilities, these companies make bigger profits.

At least one of the alleged bribe payments was made at the Deptford Mall, authorities said, adding the conversation was caught on tape. On Feb. 13, Peyton allegedly met with one of these temp agency owners at the mall, received $800 in cash, and said he would help the firm “stay out of trouble,” court documents indicate.

Another time, he also reportedly told the firm’s manager that the temp agency would only have to report 70 percent of the hours worked by these employees. For his services, Peyton allegedly received $700.

Although he has not pleaded guilty, Peyton Ð who was charged on Monday with bribery Ð has reportedly spoken with an IRS agent and admitted to receiving such payments.

Peyton was responsible for auditing employer records, reviewing quarterly tax filings and other duties related to making sure companies complied with tax laws.

The three managers of these temporary labor firms all live in Philadelphia and were charged with paying bribes.

They are: Yohan Wongso, 27; Channavel “Danny” Kong, 37; and Thuan Nguyen, 37.

Wongso pleaded guilty Monday and faces 18 to 24 months in prison.

As part of his plea agreement, Rivera will forfeit two homes, a 2008 Lexus, $120,000 in cash and a collection of valuable coins. He also will turn over five gold plates and four silver bars.

Rivera faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced on July 6. Although the judge has final say, the two sides agreed on Monday to not object to Rivera receiving a sentence of between eight and 10 years.”

To read the full original article go to http://www.nj.com/sunbeam/index.ssf?/base/news-4/1238476203173240.xml&coll=9

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