Mayor Jose “Joey” Torres has cancelled a raffle to raise money for his legal defense late Friday afternoon. This was followed by questions whether the indicted mayor had obtained the necessary permissions to raffle a watch valued at $13,500 at his fundraiser scheduled for Sunday at the Brownstone.
Torres will reportedly still hold the $250 per ticket fundraiser, but without the drawing for his Breitling for Bentley watch with 4.75 carat bezel. Although his promotion for the event mentions the word “raffled,” Torres claimed it wasn’t a raffle, but a door prize. He told the Paterson Press he was unfamiliar with state rules on door prize drawing noting that he lacked the needed registration to hold the drawing because it exceeded the $50 maximum value for door prizes.
“When something is brought to my attention and I don’t have clarity, I will go out and get the answer,” Torres told the paper. He did not respond to a call for comment. Already under indictment for theft and other corruption charges, Torres would have likely faced legal consequence if he went ahead with the raffle event.
“There are very specific legal requirements for raffles and similar events. If those requirements are not being followed, we will take all necessary and appropriate action against those responsible,” said New Jersey attorney general Christopher Porrino on Friday afternoon in a statement.
Porrino’s response came after the Paterson Times provided a copy of the promotional card for the raffle inquiring whether the the mayor secured the needed permissions from the Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission under the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs for his raffle event.
Torres needed to obtain a license for his raffle from the Legalized Games of Chance Control Commission. Whenever, charities or other groups hold a raffle in the city, the city council typically passes a resolution approving the raffle.
The process to secure the needed permission to hold a raffle in Paterson takes 2-3 months, according to city officials.
“A raffle would have been illegal,” said councilman Andre Sayegh, who raised questions about the mayor’s fundraiser. “The mayor must abide by the law. He doesn’t want to exacerbate his situation any further.” He pointed out state law also bars games of chance on Sundays.
Torres was indicted in early March for allegedly using public works employees to handle renovation work at a warehouse rented by his daughter and nephew. Three public works supervisors — Joseph Mania, Imad Mowaswes, and Timothy Hanlon – were also indicted for allegedly working on the mayor’s private project and billing the city overtime.
The three supervisors and the mayor were arraigned before a judge in Hudson County in April. All four pleaded not guilty to the charges. The three supervisors were offered probation without any prison time. Each had to testify against the mayor to be eligible for the plea deal.
Torres was offered a plea deal in which he will forfeit his office, be barred from public employment in future, and serve five years in state prison without parole.
“I think folks are skirting the rules,” said council president William McKoy. “Folks sometimes don’t look at these as seriously as they should and think people will not be paying attention.”