A Paterson housing inspector was charged with bribery. This is why

PATERSON — Jose Fermin, a city housing and zoning inspector, allegedly took bribes for issuing fraudulent building permits, according to the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

State authorities have not revealed how many bogus permits they think Fermin issued or how much money in bribes he allegedly collected. Court records said the alleged crimes happened between Nov. 1, 2020 and Sept. 15, 2022.

Fermin, whose city salary was $47,396, allegedly operated with two co-conspirators — one who took the fraudulent permits from the inspector and another whose clients would receive the bogus building documents, according to court records filed with the criminal charges.

One of the co-conspirators allegedly gave Fermin money in exchange for the fraudulent permits and other documents, state officials said. At one point, Fermin allegedly showed that co-conspirator how to forge the signature of Paterson’s planning and zoning director, according to the attorney general’s office.

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The second co-conspirator allegedly told an undercover detective that for $1,500 he could obtain permits for him without building plans, the court records said.

The attorney general’s press release talked about just one co-conspirator, while the court records identified two separate individuals as co-conspirators.

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Authorities have not released the name of the co-conspirators. Nor have state officials said whether they are contractors, developers, or someone else. The press release issued by the attorney general’s office did not say whether the co-conspirators cooperated with the investigation, or if they face any criminal charges themselves.

State officials accused Fermin of undermining Paterson’s inspection process by issuing permits never officially issued by the city and of evading building construction rules that are supposed to keep people safe.

Fermin, 50, of Prospect Park, has worked for Paterson since February 2016, according to payroll records.

Mayor Andre Sayegh did not respond to a message seeking information about Fermin’s employment status.

“If true, these allegations are extremely disheartening and not reflective of the culture I have worked so hard to bring to the city,” Sayegh said.

Paterson has undergone a massive building boom since Sayegh became mayor in 2018 as new construction has risen at hundreds of properties that had been vacant or abandoned. Sayegh last month said Paterson has gotten $1 billion dollars in new investments over the past four years.

Fermin was charged with bribery, official misconduct, conspiracy, forgery, tampering with public records and other offenses. The charges are a result of an investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability Corruption Bureau.

“The harm here goes well beyond the back room deals and crooked payoffs,” said Attorney General Matthew Platkin. “When the public is placed at risk and loses faith in our government institutions, we all lose. This action sends a strong message that we will aggressively prosecute this type of public corruption.”

Joe Malinconico is editor of Paterson Press. Email: editor@patersonpress.com

This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: Paterson NJ housing inspector took bribes for permits, says AG

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