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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.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Former Hamilton mayor John Bencivengo faces sentencing today

Former Hamilton mayor John Bencivengo will go before a judge Wednesday morning to hear his sentence.

The former mayor, convicted on five felonies related to a federal corruption case against him, could face a maximum of 20 years in jail when he goes before Federal Court Judge Ann Thompson. A jury convicted him last year of taking $12,400 in bribes from a cooperating witness, Marliese Ljuba.

The five counts were as follows: extortion under color of official right, attempted extortion under color of official right, two violations of the travel act and one charge of money laundering. The tribulations and trial of Bencivengo rocked Hamilton government and school district, taking two department directors and the school district’s business administrator with him.

Next week, Thompson will sentence Robert Warney, the admitted middleman for a $5,000 payment to Bencivengo. Warney testified that in 2011 he was given a $5,000 check for a “cherry bedroom set” from the husband of the prosecution’s chief witness in the case, Marliese Ljuba. The check, made out to Warney’s wife was then cashed without her knowledge.

Rob Warney said he then took out that cash in increments and paid them to Bencivengo. Warney was recorded on tapes made by both Ljuba and Bencivengo for the FBI where they are talking about the check.

Prosecutors said that Warney had reached a deal with them in exchange for his testimony in the case.

The scandal first surfaced with an arrest and charge against the mayor in April. Then, he was indicted and Warney resigned and plead guilty to money laundering in June. Numerous politicians — all the way up to Gov. Chris Christie — called for him to step down. He didn’t, professing his innocence up until the jury found him guilty two days before Thanksgiving.

Colorful testimony at trial brought to light cocaine parties, infidelity, party infighting and years-long efforts to ensure and conceal huge profits that Ljuba raked in through her health insurance brokerage.

I'll be tweeting live from the courtroom, you can find updates @awisefool or check here as the day goes on.


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