City Hall cover-up? Focus of Orange FBI raid revealed

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on January 11, 2017

ORANGE -- A continuing federal probe into the alleged misuse of government funds has expanded to include employees at city hall, and the possible destruction of electronic evidence of the purported crimes.

A copy of a search warrant executed in a city hall raid Wednesday obtained by NJ Advance Media indicates that the investigation expands upon two other warrants the FBI carried out at the city's public library last summer. According to the new warrant, investigators were seeking evidence of alleged theft and accepting corrupt payments, theft of federal government funds, wire fraud, extortion, money laundering, conspiracy to commit the crimes, and aiding and abetting the alleged crimes, at city hall.

The investigators were seeking documents, including emails, texts, and other electronic correspondences, related to a laundry list of agencies and people who work for or have had dealings in the city, including the public library and several of its programs, the YWCA - which the city purchased last year, and the city's water supply, the warrant says.

It also indicates that agents were searching for computers and other electronic devices used by a list of city officials and employees, including the mayor, business administrator, compliance officers, the director of planning and development, the department of public works, and their administrative assistants. The warrant also said agents were seeking the computers of three specific city employees - Anthony Carey, who oversees the water department, and two of the mayor's appointees, former Deputy Business Administrator Willis Edwards and Chief of Staff Tyshammie Cooper, who were all named in the previous FBI warrants.

 

The warrant seemed to focus on electronic communications, requesting proof of who used which computers at what times, evidence of malicious software or viruses that would allow people to control others' computers, and of "counter-forensic programs...designed to eliminate data from the computer or storage medium."

In a statement Wednesday, city spokesman Keith Royster confirmed the raid, and said "the city is cooperating with authorities." During the raid, Royster said, Mayor Dwayne Warren closed city hall "in order to give the authorities unfettered access to the building."

Carey and Cooper could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. In a past interview with NJ Advance Media about the ongoing investigation, Edwards said his work in the city consisted of "nothing improper on my part."

Plainclothes agents from the FBI, Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General, and the IRS could be seen Wednesday going in and out of city hall, and a sign on all of the doors indicated the building was closed "due to unforeseen circumstances." Royster said it will reopen Thursday at 8:30 a.m.

The raid is the latest in a sweeping FBI investigation that began with a raid of the public library last July. Federal agents have also met with county officials in connection to the investigation, questioning a federal grant to Orange that the county asked be returned after suspected misuse.

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