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The former chief of staff to the New Jersey Senate president avoided any prison time on tax evasion and wire fraud charges during his sentencing Monday afternoon in federal court in Newark, and could have faced up to 25 years in prison.
Tony Teixeira, 44, of Elizabeth, must serve eight months of house arrest and three years of probation, after pleading guilty last November to one charge of tax evasion and one charge of wire fraud. The court was packed with two dozen of his friends and family members, who started cheering when U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez issued the sentence.
Vazquez said one of the reasons he imposed a lesser sentence is because Teixeira's "presence is critical to his special needs child."
In June 2017, Teixeira's wife, Marlenes, died at 35 of a brain hemorrhage, months after her cesarean-section delivery of twin boys, one of whom is autistic and nonverbal. Dozens of family members and friends wrote letters to the court recounting the loss and urging the judge not to give Teixeira prison time.
Teixeira confirmed in court during his November guilty plea that he conspired with political operative and federal cooperator Sean Caddle to overcharge campaigns, political action committees and nonprofits for work done by Caddle's consulting firms and split the proceeds.
Teixeira and Caddle inflated invoices by adding services they didn’t perform and defrauded the groups out of an estimated $107,800 between 2014 and 2018, according to the charges by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The two men concealed the kickbacks to Teixeira through cash and checks made out to Teixeira’s relatives, court filings show.
Teixeira did not report to the IRS the roughly $100,000 he collected, underpaying taxes by more than $47,000, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.
Teixeira, wearing a black suit and dress shirt, told Vazquez he would take full responsibility for his actions.
"There are those who want me to blame Sean Caddle for these misdeeds ... and shift my responsibility," Teixeira said. "That’s not what led us here today. I can't justify my actions with excuses. I consciously engaged in actions that were not only foolish but undeniably wrong."
As part of his sentence, Teixeira must repay the victims $98,000 and pay the IRS $47,000.
He will be required to wear an electronic monitoring device, and over a period of eight months he can leave his home only to go to work, school, his children's activities, the doctor, substance abuse programs, religious services, or court-ordered or probation activities.
Teixeira faced up to 25 years in prison, six years of supervised release and $500,000 in fines, as well as restitution payments to the victims, according to the plea agreement he signed in August 2022. Prosecutors recommended that Teixeira receive 12 to 18 months in prison and pay $47,000 to the IRS and $107,800 to the "victims of his fraud."
He must pay roughly $30,000 to campaign accounts of former state Sen. Ray Lesniak, whom Teixeira served as chief of staff.
Lesniak, a powerful Union County Democrat, hired Caddle to create PACs and nonprofits to "raise and spend money to advocate on a variety of issues" and support candidates in local races, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Teixeira had influence over the consultants that the groups hired and the budgets they received.
Teixeira was also ordered to pay $37,000 to the Committee for Economic Growth and Social Justice, $9,000 to Infinite Possibilities, $5,000 to LEADS, $5,000 to New Jersey Workers Voices, $7,000 to the Union County Democratic Committee and $5,000 to the National Progressive Organization.
"I'm just relieved for him," said John Lynch, Teixeira's attorney. "I thought the judge's sentence was very fair. He basically recognized that he's got a lifetime sentence having to raise a child with severe disabilities."
Baffling murder-for-hire plot
Caddle was sentenced to 24 years in prison for his role in a baffling murder-for-hire plot that resulted in the death of his former friend nearly a decade ago.
Caddle awaited his sentencing at home with an ankle monitor for a year and a half, and had been cooperating with federal authorities on a separate investigation into a “scheme implored by multiple high level political agents to defraud political campaigns, committees and the IRS,” in which he recorded targets over the phone and at in-person meetings, according to a court filing by Caddle’s attorney.
The Teixeira case appears to be the only charges linked to Caddle since his attorney first announced the arrangement in January 2022.
"Without an insider like Caddle, it is unlikely that Teixeira’s crimes would have been prosecuted," prosecutors wrote in Teixeira's sentencing memo. "The government had the benefit of a cooperating witness who was able to narrate the scheme, provide documentary evidence of it, and offer inculpatory recordings of his co-conspirator."
Prosecutor Sean Farrell said in court, "The world of campaign finance is pretty opaque. That’s an understatement. We generally have little visibility. This was a unique case because we had an insider.
"When you factor in [that Teixeira] was the chief of staff to a state senator ... there is an abuse of trust here. He was afforded a lot of discretion for how to spend that money, and he abused that."
Groups linked to Caddle spent money on Elizabeth Board of Education races; Newark, Bayonne and Little Ferry mayoral runs; a gubernatorial election, and more, according to federal and state campaign finance filings and incorporation filings.
Federal agents raided Caddle's home three years ago seeking records for more than 50 such groups, as well as information related to the murder of Caddle’s friend and colleague, Michael Galdieri. Caddle later admitted in court to hiring two men to kill Galdieri.
After Teixeira pleaded guilty, Lynch, his attorney, told reporters that his client had “made a mistake getting involved with Sean Caddle.”
Teixeira was listed in a September 2021 state subpoena seeking details on payments from Caddle. The state demanded information on nearly $50,000 in payments from Caddle and his consulting firm Arkady to Teixeira and his wife between 2015 and 2017.
Caddle told NorthJersey.com in a phone call earlier this year that Teixeira did not work for Arkady, but confirmed he had paid Teixeira.
Teixeira had gone deep into debt
Late last year, after news leaked that Teixeira planned to plead guilty to federal charges, he resigned from his posts as chief of staff to Sen. President Nicholas Scutari, D-Union; chair of the Elizabeth Democratic Party; and a member of the Union County Board of Elections.
His former employers remained supportive.
“Tony was a good staffer and he was a friend, and I’m looking forward to him — as I’m sure he is — putting this behind him,” Scutari told NorthJersey.com.
Lesniak urged Vazquez on Monday to require Teixeira to complete community service instead of jail time.
"He did a great job as my chief of staff," Lesniak said. "He served the public well. Somewhere he went astray. He needs to go back to that public service. Serving the public in community service would do the job."
In a filing to the court, Teixeira's attorney submitted 38 pages of letters of support from 25 friends and politically connected individuals, including former Gov. Jim McGreevey; state Sen. Brian Stack, D-Hudson; Assemblyman Raj Mukherji, D-Hudson; New Jersey Labor Commissioner Rob Asaro-Angelo; Kevin Drennan, former executive director of the state Senate; Newark Board of Education member Vereliz Santana; Kelly Martins, the director of public information for Union County; and Union County Commissioner Chairman Sergio Granados.
Teixeira had gone deep into debt before he became a top aide to Lesniak. A firm he created, Magellan Marketing, defaulted on a $245,000 mortgage loan from the Elizabeth Development Company in 2010, according to court records. Three years later, in 2013, a judge garnished the wages Teixeira had earned working for Lesniak and Re/Max Realty in connection with the loan default.
“Tony has unquestionably endured his share of hardships, and while he has served the public in many admirable capacities and is a friend, nonetheless he erred and I acknowledge that,” Scutari said in a statement in October. “I am glad Tony is accepting responsibility for his personal financial actions.”
This article originally appeared on NorthJersey.com: NJ Senate leader's former top aide avoids prison time for fraud