Blogs > Hamilton in focus

Covering Hamilton and Robbinsville townships in-depth for The Trentonian. I can be reached at (609) 989-7800 ext. 207 or (609) 468-6962. Email me at or follow me @awisefool.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Wrapup of Bencivengo testimony: Day one

Before I go into the weird things that happened in court today, here’s primer on the situation.

Hamilton Mayor John Bencivengo has been accused of taking $12,400 in bribes in exchange for his influence with the local school board.

In particular, Marliese Ljuba, the government’s key witness and alleged briber, wanted help with two board members: Board President Patty Del Giudice and Board Member Stephanie Pratico.

Ljuba worked as the insurance broker for the district and made more than half a million a year on that contract alone in commissions.

Bencivengo’s attorney Jerome Ballarotto, has argued that the money was not a bribe but a loan for a friend in need.

Now that you’re caught up, here’s a wrapup of what hasn’t gotten into print today after the first day of the Bencivengo trial:

Ljuba and Bencivengo apparently got Joy Tozzi her first job in Robbinsville as the assistant to the mayor. Ljuba said Tozzi accepted more than $10,000 in bribes gifts and an all-expenses-paid trip to Disneyland in exchange for her vote when Tozzi was a member of the school board

Tozzi is now the business administrator of Robbinsville. Ljuba said she used Tozzi and others to funnel illegal campaign contributions to council members and school board members through the years.

David Boyne, newly elected member of that town’s council think’s Tozzi should step aside until these allegations are resolved, even though there are not any criminal charges.

“I’d sort of like a higher standard with regard to the appearance of impropriety and until its resolved I’d like her to step down,” he said.

In a recorded Feb. 2012 meeting, Ljuba and Bencivengo discussed an OPRA request filed with the school district making her commissions public

While the request was filed by Connie Silakoski, the pair quickly jumped on Steve Cook, the executive director of The Arc of Mercer, as the one who helped prepare it.

For those that don’t know, the Arc of Mercer helps house, educate and employ hundreds of developmentally disabled people throughout the county.

To be exact, Bencivengo said "What a jerkoff he is, he is such a f***ing jerkoff" about him.

Then, Bencivengo went on to say he would get Vinnie Cappodano, former town councilman and employee of the Arc, to get to him.

Cappodano, by the way, said he was never approached about any of this stuff and if he was, would not participate in it.

If Cappodano was not enough, Bencivengo said he would call Rep. Wayne DeAngelo (there’s no indication that he did)

Now, if Cappodano wasn’t enough Bencivengo said he would “get Rob Warney to have him have a visit from the screw guys,” he said. I’ll let him explain them himself.

“Yea theyre construction workers, they’re Russians they’ll put a couple of screws in your knees if you don’t stop,” he said.

“That would give him the message,” he said.

Final little tidbits; the government has two witnesses left and plans to rest its case tomorrow.

There are two portions of the recordings that have been redacted; one by court order and one by agreement of both sides.

On the jury; they are half men, half women and mostly white. Apparently one juror has had to drop out due to a death in the family.

In addition, the FBI funded $7,400 in bribes and a trip to Atlantic City in July for Ljuba, Bencivengo and others. The price for the Atlantic City was not mentioned in testimony.

And I’ll leave you with this. When attending the New Jersey Conference of Municipalities in Atlantic City, Bencivengo, according to a recording, apparently left $1,500 in his other pair of pants.

But Ljuba bailed him out, picked him up and gave him about $300, she said.

With that, I leave you for the night. More testimony comes tomorrow. YOu can check out updates throughout the day here or just wait for another one of these.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home