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For Immediate Release:  
For Further Information Contact:
October 14, 2005

Office of The Attorney General
- Peter C. Harvey, Attorney General

 

Lee Moore
609-292-4791

 

AG Harvey Announces Guilty Plea by School Construction Contractor to OGI Theft Charges

TRENTON – Attorney General Peter C. Harvey announced today that Manny Bana, a former school construction contractor once based in Somerset County, pleaded guilty in New Jersey Superior Court to criminal charges related to the embezzlement of nearly $1 million in public funds earmarked for school construction and renovation projects in Edison Township.

Bana, 38, pleaded guilty this afternoon before Superior Court Judge Frederick P. DeVesa in Middlesex County to one count each of making false contract representation for a government contract, and theft of funds by failure to make required disposition. Both counts represent second-degree charges resulting from an investigation by the Attorney General’s Office of Government Integrity (OGI). As the result of a plea agreement, Bana is expected to be sentenced to five years in State Prison, and to be ordered to pay a yet-to-be-determined amount of restitution and fines.

According to Attorney General Harvey, defendant Bana was the sole owner and operator of the Somerville-based Icon Construction Corp., a company hired by the Edison Township Board of Education in December 2002 to act as primary contractor on nine different public school construction projects throughout the Edison district. The projects were funded in part by the New Jersey Schools Construction Corporation (SCC).

The Attorney General said an extensive investigation by OGI revealed that Bana stole by accepting payments as primary contractor on the Edison school construction jobs, then withholding payment to six subcontractors hired to help with the work despite representing that he had paid those subcontractors. In announcing Bana’s guilty plea, Harvey noted that, while contractors failing to pay subcontractors is not a new problem, he knows of no other successful criminal prosecution of a contractor by the State for such conduct.

“We remain committed to policing public corruption and protecting public funds, and to helping school districts and hard-working contractors avoid being exploited by unscrupulous business operators,” said Harvey. “Through greed and deception, this defendant stole public money, caused extreme financial hardship for all of the subcontractors involved and, clearly, walked away believing that no consequences would result from his unlawful actions.”

On March 19, 2004 Bana, who once resided in Roselle Park, Union County, and Icon Construction were debarred by the New Jersey Schools Construction Corporation and the State Division of Property Management and Construction from receiving public works contracts in New Jersey. Bana was indicted in connection with his Edison crimes in late March 2005. He turned himself in shortly thereafter. Following today’s guilty plea in Superior Court, Bana remained free on $25,000 bail pending formal sentencing. Sentencing is scheduled for January 6, 2006 before Judge DeVesa.

Acting OGI Director Tracy M. Thompson said the investigation and prosecution of Bana represented a significant commitment of OGI resources because it required, among other things, detailed analysis of corporate financial records, a thorough understanding of the construction industry and its processes, and an extensive understanding of school construction and renovation projects.

“This case should serve as a strong warning to others who would seek to profit by taking financial advantage of school districts, contractors and others involved with publicly-funded work – at OGI, we are committed to protecting the public trust, and we stand ready to tackle complex, time-consuming investigations in order to do so,” said Thompson.

Thompson credited OGI State Investigator Kim Husband, Special Investigator Lee Wittig, and Deputy Attorney General Ronald A. Epstein for putting together a thorough prosecution of the Bana case. She said the State Commission of Investigation (SCI) assisted in the investigation.

Subcontractors impacted by the Bana theft included: Three Generations Plumbing and Heating, Inc. Of Morris Plains; Weir Welding Company, Inc., of Carlstadt; DPR Electric, Inc., of Bound Brook; Brittashan Enterprises of Franklin; M & R Mechanical Contractors, Inc., of Highlands and WHL Enterprises, Inc., trading as Bill Leary Air Conditioning & Heating of Metuchen.

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