Two Jersey City men have been charged in a kickback scheme to defraud the owner of a Jersey City condominium complex.
According to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger, the men, Ranaldo Bennett, 40, and Nathaniel Obedos, 56, conspired with Jonathan Smith, 56, of Montclair, to inflate charges for repairs and maintenance at the complex and pay the excess money to Bennett and Smith as kickbacks.
Bennett was the complex’s lead property manager and Smith was its superintendent. The two allegedly steered repair and maintenance work to Obedos and his company in exchange for kickbacks from Obedos.
Sellinger alleges that from November 2018 through October 2020, Bennett and Smith falsified invoices that “grossly inflated” the value of Obedos’s work. Relying on those fake invoices, the complex paid Obedos the inflated prices, and Obedos then used the excess money to pay Bennett and Smith kickbacks.
In total, the complex paid Obedos and his company over $1 million for work that was actually valued at $500,000. Obedos used the overpayments to pay $460,000 in kickbacks to Bennett and over $10,700 in kickbacks to Smith.
Sellinger did not disclose the location of the condo complex.
Bennett and Smith were each charged in a three-count complaint with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
Smith was arrested earlier today and will have his initial appearance this afternoon before U.S. Magistrate Judge Edward S. Kiel in Newark federal court. Bennett was arrested earlier in the week and had his initial appearance before Judge Kiel on Aug. 7.
Obedos pleaded guilty on July 6 before U.S. District Judge Karen M. Williams in Camden federal court.
The charge of conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years, and the money laundering charges each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. Each charge also carries a maximum fine of $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense, whichever is greatest. Obedos’ sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 9.