Ramon Joaquin, a candidate running for the City Council seat in the 5th Ward, is facing questions over his residency after a private investigator surveilled him for months.
Joaquin was observed entering and exiting a house at 426 East 33rd Street in the 3rd Ward for six months, according to prominent developer Charles Florio, who hired the private eye to conduct the surveillance.
“For six months, we have him coming in and out of the house every night and every morning,” said Florio, who has a pending lawsuit against Joaquin and former mayoral candidate Pedro Rodriguez, on Tuesday morning.
For example, on Feb. 11, Joaquin parked his Kia Telluride at the property at about 10:12 p.m. The next morning, Feb. 12 at about 8:55 a.m., Joaquin and his wife were captured on video surveillance at the property. Joaquin is seen entering the same vehicle and driving out of the property.
Joaquin appeared at a deposition hearing at about 12:40 p.m. on Feb. 12. Under oath, Joaquin was asked where he lives. He said at 42 20th Avenue.
“And is that where you slept last evening as well?” Florio’s attorney Richard Mazawey subsequently asked.
“Yes, sir,” answered Joaquin. His wife also gave the same answer during the deposition.
On Tuesday morning, Joaquin insisted he is domiciled at 42 20th Avenue in the 5th Ward. When told of the evidence collected by the private investigator, Joaquin repeatedly said he resides at the 20th Avenue address.
Joaquin must live in the 5th Ward to qualify to run against incumbent councilman Luis Velez.
“I live at 42 20th Avenue,” said Joaquin, who claimed he became aware of the private investigator sometime in November. “He could have all the pictures he wants, but I own the property.”
Joaquin said he has lived at the 20th Avenue address for the past year and half. He said his driver’s license, tax returns, and rent receipts have the same address.
“Are the pictures lying? Is that not him? If you show the pictures to his own mother, she’s going to say that’s my child,” said Florio. “He is living there. It’s classic I got caught. He’s doubling down on his lie.”
Florio has a business dispute with Joaquin, Rodriguez, and their wives. Joaquin and Rodriguez’s wife own a company called Shark Eyes Security. Florio had a $40,450 deal to purchase security cameras from the firm that would be synced with the Paterson police surveillance system. He claimed the firm sold him the cameras, but only 20-percent were synced with the police system prompting a lawsuit. At the time both Joaquin and Rodriguez worked for the police department.
“I will not entertain Florio’s foolish and false allegations. Clearly, he is acting on behalf of Luis Velez, who he prefers to keep in the city council, so he can continue to obtain favors from the administration,” said Joaquin.
Florio denied the private investigation was aimed at benefiting Velez’s reelection campaign. Velez rents a house owned by Florio.
“What we’re trying to establish is this guy has a major credibility issue. He can’t say the truth even if it hit him in the face,” said Florio. “He’s going to be the councilman for the 5th Ward, but lives in the 3rd? This is crazy even by Paterson’s standards.”
Florio said the private eye was hired to gather evidence for the trial and establish Joaquin’s lack of credibility.
Did Joaquin’s testimony amount to perjury? “It’s one for the judge to determine,” said Mazawey. He said there were inconsistencies and “untruthful” statements in Joaquin’s testimony. Typically, a judge reaches a conclusion and makes a referral to law enforcement for prosecution.
Florio used AHM Investigations of Glen Ridge, same firm that famously trailed former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres that ultimately led to his downfall, for the job.
Velez said he has yet to see the private eye’s footage or report. He denied having anything do with the surveillance.
“I know he doesn’t live in the 5th Ward. I never see him in the 5th Ward,” said Velez. “He should come clean. Where does he really live?”
Velez is calling on the Passaic County superintendent of elections Shona Mack-Pollock to open an investigation into Joaquin’s residency.
Mack-Pollock did not respond to a call for comment on Tuesday morning.
“I welcome any investigation and challenge Mr. Florio to produce any legal document that validates his claim. It’s time for Mr. Florio to put up or shut up, but I will not be intimidated by his tactics,” said Joaquin. “Luis Velez has been using these tactics long enough for me to see his bluff from a mile away. The 5th ward needs a change, and I represent the change in the 5th ward needs.”
Florio said he is willing to provide the surveillance footage and the private investigator’s report to the Passaic County superintendent of elections for her investigation.
“Politics in Paterson is becoming rough due to special interest,” said Joaquin referring to Florio. “I feel flattered that he actually hired a private investigator. I feel very important.”
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Updated 4:05 p.m.