Antonio Teixeira, 44, of Elizabeth could have faced a combined 25 years in prison and fines of at least $500,000 after he pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion and one count of wire fraud conspiracy but instead, the politically connected con man was sentenced to 3 years probation with 8 months of home confinement.
Teixeira was an aide for former Union County Manager George W. Devanney who served as a staff for former state Senator Raymond Lesniak and New Jersey Senate President Nicholas ‘No Show Nick’ Scutari, in addition to being one of Mayor Chris Bollwage’s closest confidantes as chair of the Elizabeth Democratic Committee and Gov. Phil Murphy’s appointee to the Union County Board of Elections.
According to U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger, Teixeira conspired with Sean Caddle from 2014 to 2018, to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars using Caddle’s political consulting firms to defraud various campaigns, political action committees, and nonprofit organizations.
Teixeira then failed to report his illicit income of at least $107,800 on tax forms that he filed with the IRS during those same years.
“A meaningful term of imprisonment here will send a message to the public and other public officials that brazen acts of campaign fraud committed by high-ranking officials will not be tolerated,” said Sellinger, in a sentencing letter recommending 12 to 18 months in prison but the judge ignored that suggestion.
He was ordered to pay $98,001 in restitution, although the government was asking $155,153 in restitution from Teixeira but details about payees will be in the court’s sentencing order, which has not yet been filed.
Caddle was hired by Lesniak to create the PACs and 501(c)(4)s so that they could raise and spend money to advocate on a variety of issues, including supporting particular candidates in local races around New Jersey.
Teixeira, as Lesniak’s chief of staff, wielded influence that got Caddle hired and partially controlled the budgets that were allocated to each of these dark money campaigns and organizations.
Lesniak raved about the mastery and effectiveness of their operation, while Teixeira and Caddle conspired to falsely inflate the invoices that the consulting firms submitted to the campaigns, PACs, and 501(c)(4)s with phony campaign-related expenditures.
Ashley Balcerzak, a reporter for The Record, NorthJersey.com and the USA Today Network New Jersey, said 25 politically-connected individuals wrote letters of support for Teixeira, including former Gov. Jim McGreevey; Sen. Brian Stack; Assemblyman Raj Mukherji; New Jersey Labor Commissioner Robert Asaro-Angelo; and lobbyist Kevin Drennan, the managing director at the Westfield office of Mercury Public Affairs.
Caddle, who orchestrated the brutal murder-for-hire of another political associate, Michael Galdieri, agreed to pad invoices and split with Teixeira the difference between the actual campaign expenditures and the amount overcharged to Lesniak.
Caddle paid some of Teixeira’s share to him in cash and funneled the remainder to Teixeira via checks made out to Teixeira’s relatives in order to conceal that campaign money was being kicked back to Teixeira.
In total, Teixeira received more than $100,000. Although Teixeira pocketed these fraudulent proceeds and used the money for personal expenses, he never reported the money on the tax forms that he filed with the IRS during the course of the scheme.
The wire fraud conspiracy charge carries a statutory maximum prison sentence of 20 years, while the tax evasion charge carries a statutory maximum of five years in prison. Both charges are also punishable by a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the scheme, whichever is greatest.
Gabriel M. Ferrari of Edison was sentenced on July 19, 2023, to one year and one day in prison by U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler for filing a false tax return on behalf of his company.
“Not long ago, Tony Teixeira looked like he made it big. After years as a Democratic political operative for Ray Lesniak, Teixeira had become chief of staff to state Sen. Nicholas Scutari, who was then unexpectedly elevated to Senate president. He also chaired the Democratic Party in Elizabeth, New Jersey’s fourth-largest city,” said Politico reporter Matt Friedman in a commentary about Teixeira’s sentencing for wire fraud and tax evasion.
“It appears that this is the last gasp of the Sean Caddle saga, which began when Caddle pleaded guilty to murdering his former associate Michael Galdieri. Caddle cooperated with the feds over a long period, even wore wires,” said Friedman. “Based on what prosecutors said at Caddle’s sentencing, it appears likely that Teixeira will be the only politically connected person charged as a result of Caddle’s cooperation. The two men skimmed money off the network of super PACs and non-profits Caddle ran that were designed to hide the identity of donors who influenced local elections around New Jersey.”
Friedman said, “it’s a sad state of affairs when even though these groups were clearly created to obscure money trails are being treated as victims instead of a symptom of something deeply wrong with our politics.”