GUILLERMO QUINONES, JR. BECOMES 4TH NEW BRUNSWICK WATER UTILITY EMPLOYEE CRIMINALLY CHARGED SINCE 2015
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—A 49-year-old city employee has been charged with bribery and official misconduct in a widening investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
Guillermo Quinones, Jr. was quietly hit with the two criminal charges on April 16, making him the fourth Water Utility worker in the administration of Mayor James Cahill to be charged with crimes in the past four years.
One official, who covered up problems with the city’s drinking water, did time in state prison. Two more have pleaded guilty and are awaiting multi-year prison sentences.
As we reported, the latest scam centered on illegally lowering the water and sewer bills of certain favored property owners, including landlords and businesses. In some cases, Water Utility customers were purposefully provided with faulty meters that would not accurately record their water usage.
A water meter given to this news outlet in 2016 was rumored to be one of the defective meters, which authorities said the schemers referred to as “the thief.” Local police obtained a search warrant and seized the meter from our newsroom in a controversial abuse of power that appeared to violate the 1981 Privacy Protection Act.
Quinones failed to appear in court on June 3, but then showed up on June 6, according to court records.
The charging document states that, between 2013 and 2016, Quinones “did, as an employee of the Water Department of the City of New Brunswick… solicit, accept, or agree to accept a benefit… as consideration for the performance of an official duty, namely, the use of his position to reduce the water and sewer bills of another.”
It goes on to say he also acted “with a purpose to obtain a benefit for himself or another” and that his actions constituted “an unauthorized exercise of his office functions… contrary to the provisions of [NJ’s official misconduct statute], and against the peace of this state, the government and dignity of the same.”
If prosecutors can prove that much at trial, and also that the alleged bribes exceeded $200 total, Quinones would face a mandatory minimum of five years in state prison on the official misconduct charge alone.
An affidavit submitted in support of the charges by a state law enforcement officer lays out the entire case against Quinones in a single sentence:
“Defendant conspired with others to commit theft thru reductions of water/sewer bills within the City of New Brunswick.”Richard Lane, Jr., Affidavit of Probable Cause
While the AG’s Office prominently advertised the convictions of the other three water workers, no statements have been issued regarding Quinones by the office, which is headed by Gurbir Grewal.
Under Grewal’s predecessor, the agency did not promote a criminal charge they had brought against another individual involved in the same scheme. New Brunswick Today revealed the additional defendant, and the circumstances that tied this matter into another high-profile criminal case prosecuted by the AG’s Office.
The other man was sentenced to probation and did not work for the Water Utility. Rather, he was employed by one of the beneficiaries of the bribery, a landlord and the owner of a staffing company who was facing major insurance fraud charges.
That man, Andres Minaya, was able to parlay his assistance with the Water Utility investigation to secure favorable treatment from the AG’s office as they prosecuted him in an unrelated case.
Minaya was sentenced to five years in prison and began serving the sentence in September 2017 and he did less than six months before being released under a special “Intensive Supervision Program.”
A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s Office initially declined to confirm that Quinones was a suspect in the case, but New Brunswick Today obtained copies of the criminal charges and contacted the prosecutor in charge of the case.
“All I can say is he’s been charged,” said Deputy Attorney General Anthony Robinson, who will be prosecuting the case according to the 11-page charging document.
“We do not issue a press release every time a defendant is charged,” said Peter Aseltine, a longtime representative of the state’s top law enforcement agency.
“In some cases, we do not issue a press release until a matter is resolved. We charge hundreds of defendants each year.”
Quinones had worked for the embattled New Brunswick Water Utility since 2008, and he was paid an annual salary of $34,565 at the time of his suspension.
Though the charging document lists an address on Blake Avenue in Somerset, Quinones is registered to vote at an address on Edgebrook Road in New Brunswick, and voted in both the primary and general elections last year. The home was purchased by a Guillermo Quinones in 2016 for $155,000, according to property records.
City Administrator Daniel Torrisi confirmed on July 18 that Quinones had been suspended without pay in connection with the scandal, which first broke in December 2016 with the filing of criminal charges against Joseph DeBonis and William Ortiz, longtime Water Utility workers.
DeBonis and Ortiz pleaded guilty to official misconduct in April 2018, but their sentencing has been repeatedly delayed without explanation.
“You are not going to believe this but it is now scheduled for August 9th before Judge Robert Kirsch,” a court employee told New Brunswick Today. “I don’t know the reason for all of the delays.”
Like the cases of his co-defendants, State v. Quinones has been transferred to Union County’s Superior Court. New Brunswick Today pushed to have the cases moved out of Middlesex County Superior Court, where Ortiz’s wife is employed.
After adjournments on June 12 and July 11, Quinones’ case was set down for a plea disposition conference on September 11 at 9am.
According to court records, Quinones was previously charged with credit card crimes and theft by deception in 1992. That case was remanded to municipal court, and what happened after that was not immediately available.
Charlie is the founder and editor of New Brunswick Today, and the winner of the Awbrey Award for Community-Oriented Local Journalism. He is a proud Rutgers University journalism graduate, a community organizer, and a former independent candidate for mayor of New Brunswick.