Paterson unveils street sign for funeral director convicted of stealing $56,000 | Paterson Times

Paterson unveils street sign for funeral director convicted of stealing $56,000


Councilman Luis Velez unveiled a street sign last week paying tribute to a convicted funeral director who stole $56,000 that were intended for funerals for poor families.

Velez was the sole member of the City Council to attend the ceremony. Other politicians who attended the street naming ceremony were mayor Andre Sayegh, assemblyman Benjie Wimberly, state senator Nellie Pou, and congressman Bill Pascrell.

Disgraced former mayor Jose “Joey” Torres also attended the street naming ceremony.

Sayegh and the convicted funeral director’s son are childhood friends.

Velez had convinced his colleagues on the City Council in early October to approve a measure naming the intersection of Market Street and 20th Avenue to “Martinez Way” after deceased funeral director Manuel E. Martinez.

Velez claimed he was not aware of the conviction. Martinez’s son school board member Manny Martinez, who lobbied for the street naming, never made him aware of it, he claimed in mid-October.

Many council members said they knew nothing about the conviction when they voted to approve the measure.

Velez said he would bring the measure back for reconsideration in mid-October. He never did. When asked by a reporter later in the month, Velez falsely claimed the measure had to be brought back by the council president.

Velez appeared to prevaricate to avoid responsibility for his measure. He later said he was “okay” with naming a street after a convicted criminal. He also said he didn’t want to take back an honor he had already given.

“We’re not honoring him. We used his biography to support the Martinez Way,” said Velez.

But that’s not true. His measure states the naming is to mark the third anniversary of Martinez’s death and 50th anniversary of him being in business in Paterson. Martinez founded the Martinez Funeral Home at the intersection.

“We took the good part of him because that’s the part that they presented,” said Velez.

Velez was the main sponsor for the measure. It was co-sponsored by council members Al Abdelaziz, Flavio Rivera, and Maritza Davila.

Martinez stole $56,150 in funds that were to go towards paying for funerals for indigent families. He admitted to the crimes in 2009 and pleaded guilty to third-degree theft by deception.

As then-owner and funeral director of Martinez’s Funeraria Latina on Market Street, Martinez provided funeral services to people on public assistance. He was eligible to be reimbursed $2,246 per dead person from the Passaic County Board of Social Services to subsidize cost of the funeral service. Families and representatives of the deceased could contribute $1,570 for funeral costs without Martinez losing the subsidy.

Between January 1 and December 31, 2018, Martinez admitted to submitting 25 fraudulent reimbursement applications to the Passaic County Board of Social Services, according to the charges that were filed against him. He falsely claimed he was eligible for the full $2,246 subsidy and that he had not received more than $1,570 from the deceased person’s representatives. State investigators found Martinez submitted false statements on behalf of family representatives without their knowledge. He also forged their signatures on documents. He received reimbursement for the maximum $2,246 despite accepting payments of more than $1,570 from representatives of the deceased. At the time, authorities said Martinez illegally collected $56,150. He was given a sentence of probation. He had to pay $56,150 in restitution and surrender his funeral director’s license.

Martinez was the first Puerto Rican to be licensed as a funeral director in New Jersey, according to the resolution. He worked for three years for the Paterson Parking Authority after his conviction. He died in 2017.

Email: [email protected]

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  • https://www.facebook.com/app_scoped_user_id/YXNpZADpBWEY2Qm0zTkVhRW1ENjFEOVVlNGlQVGVFMGlJRkRNVjY1YjR3UGNqQ1BsSlFWaHI5bE1pLTQ3QWNCdE1ieUY5UDgwck1PbTBvRVFISTR4WncwMFJaOWlwTUVidWp5SW5YbkpfQXQ1T2dSYwZDZD/ Samuel Torres

    Latinos are customarily very proud. The family try to give their love one the best. Its very difficult to see family members crying at the funeral home when making arrangements for the funeral and not having the funds. Funeral services would sometimes last 3 days to allow family members to come from Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. I knew Manny since childhood and he was always a very generous person who loved his community. The cost of a funeral far. exceed the amount given by the Dept. of Social service. In most cases the the indigent deceased money for the funeral came from donations. Manny would even call head of non profit organization for donations. That I can attest to. In 2009 the average funeral cost was $7755.00. If the state gave $2,246.00 and the family needed to get $1570.00 from donations They will still be short. by almost $4,000 dollars. The story makes it seem that Manny pocket this money.. Manny lost his license, his health and ultimately his life. Simply for being generous and helping the indigent families of Paterson. Lets remember that he served the city as a Commissioner of A.B.C. Youth Guidance, trustee to Passaic County Community college Co founder of "FUERZA HISPANA" a political action organization. Received the prestigious Passaic County Count Hispanic Law Enforcement Award which read "Presented to the individual who in the opinion of the members has done the most to upgrade the image of the Hispanic community of Passaic County. Even a convicted murderer upon being sentenced for his crime .The jury or judge compare the Mitigating circumstances Vs Aggravating circumstances.

    • John Brown

      Well. I guess you'll be advocating for your crooked brother to get a street named after him. You motherf%÷@_kers disgusted me!

      • HankMorgan


    • Biggerthansafaree

      Lol one family of thieving puerto ricans defending another family of thieving puerto ricans. Only in Paterson kids, only in Paterson

  • HankMorgan

    I know. It’s, like, WTF?

  • bigron

    Luis Velez was always vulgar and low-class.

  • David Soo

    My quote from the news when they threw a party for marty barnes when he got out of prison for stealing from the public.

    <b>"The only thing more despicable then an elected official who steals from the public is when the people who he stole from celebrate his return from incarceration. It almost condones the action."</b>

    • HankMorgan


  • Yogi Zuna

    As Councilman Rooney would say in the good old days: "Only in Paterson."

  • MarquinhoGaucho

    Velez should get an F for not doing his homework. Also for listening to sexual predator Martinez who the district had to pay 400K to settle his sexual harassment claims and yet he is still on the BOE.Shame to all the politicians who showed up. Poo has constantly stabbed working people in the back by voting against our interests and for her paid donors.