In a case highlighting the intersection of politics and real estate in Jersey City, a former aide to Mayor Fulop has been sentenced by a federal judge to three years of probation and ordered to pay $1,171,494 in restitution.
The aide, Thomas Bertoli, 63, of Matawan, acted as an advisor to Fulop’s campaign for Jersey City Council in 2003 and his campaign for mayor in 2013.
Over decades, Bertoli also worked as a paid political consultant and real estate “expediter,” shepherding developers’ plans through building departments for a fee.
Following Fulop’s election, Bertoli reportedly became a regular fixture at Jersey City’s building department.
In 2020, Bertoli was indicted on eight counts stemming from his failure to file tax returns for multiple businesses over a seven year period. He pleaded guilty in October to one count, Corrupt Interference with the Administration of the Internal Revenue Laws.
According to the indictment, Bertoli’s expediting services on real estate development projects, primarily in Jersey City, generated “hundreds of thousands in gross receipts.” The indictment alleged that between 2009 to 2016, he failed to file tax returns and made only one payment in the amount of $5,000.
At Wednesday’s sentencing, Bertoli was also given three years of probation. During the first year, Bertoli will be electronically monitored and required to remain in home detention “except for employment, education, religious services, medical, substance abuse and mental health treatment, court-ordered obligations.”
According to an article published by Bloomberg in June 2019, a grand jury investigation revealed that “Bertoli’s woes could be politically embarrassing to the mayor.” In the same article, Fulop’s spokeswoman stated that the mayor had had little to no interaction with Bertoli since being elected.
Bertoli, who was known locally as “the janitor” due to his ability to clean up political messes, denied having anything to do with the Fulop administration in a Crain’s New York Business article from 2019, saying “If it doesn’t have to do with a hammer and a nail, I don’t work on it.”
Bertoli’s father was implicated in a bribery scheme with a state senator in the ‘80s and became a local legend for refusing to snitch.
In a statement to the Jersey City Times, Bertoli’s attorney, Jack Arsenault, said “We are relieved and pleased to have this six year odyssey end so Tom Bertoli can continue his excellent work and community involvement. It was a horribly trying experience made worse because at its root it was an investigation into political corruption.”
“Between 2018 and 2020 the government conducted a wide-ranging grand jury investigation issuing over 200 subpoenas and questioning many witnesses seeking information about political corruption and Tom Bertoli. They found nothing so charged Tom with the original tax crimes that he tried to resolve in 2017-2018.”
Bertoli is the second Fulop ally to be indicted. Former Board of Education President and Fulop ally, Sudhan Thomas, is facing both state and federal charges related to bribe taking in his role as former Jersey City Board of Education President and embezzlement as head of the now defunct Jersey City Employment Training Program.