Guttenberg mayor surrenders to authorities

Friday, September 28, 2007

Guttenberg Mayor David Delle Donna surrendered to federal authorities this morning after he was indicted by a grand jury on corruption charges.

New Jersey reporter Toni Yates is live in Newark with more.

Eyewitness News is told Mayor Delle Donna turned himself in to federal authorities at 10:30 this morning. We're told he came by himself, even though his wife Ana was expected to turn herself in, as well.

Apparently, the mayor has been the talk of the small Hudson County town of 10,800 residents since the FBI raided his house in January. During the raid, federal agents seized a number of files several computers, rifles and files. They also seized records from Town Hall.

The raids are believed to be connected to a human trafficking run by a former bar owner and eight others. In that case, the defendants were accused of recruiting young women in Honduras and smuggle them into the United States, then forcing them - some are as young as 14 - to dance and entertain at three bars in Guttenberg and nearby Union City. However, the mayor is not implicated in that.

But, officials say the 51-year-old leader of the trafficking operation, Luisa Medrano of Cliffside Park, pleaded guilty to the relatively minor charges of illegally harboring aliens and tax evasion. She had contributed $3,000 to Delle Donna's election campaigns.

At the time, Delle Donna told The Hudson Reporter: "I don't believe I've done anything illegal. I feel I'll be exonerated."

"We live our lives based on the premise that we're supposed to always try to help people when you're a public servant." Delle Donna added. "I have always had a very open-door policy here. I welcome people into my home, sometimes people I barely know, because they've come to me for help. And in the past, I've gone out of my way to help. I'm just disappointed that some of that help can be misconstrued as being illegal."

In addition to being mayor, a part-time job that pays $6,700 a year, Delle Donna is the coordinator for maintenance at the Hudson County Schools of Technology in North Bergen.

He was sworn into his second term as mayor on January 1, 2004. Prior to his election as mayor, he served for several years as a member of the Town Council, as well as a Trustee of the Board of Education. The mayor's "focus is public safety," according to Guttenberg's web site.

According to reports he is not the first Guttenberg public official to be charged with a crime.

  • In 2003, former mayor Peter LaVilla pleaded guilty to using campaign funds for a private brokerage account.

  • And In 2002, a councilman accused of receiving illegal advances on his salary resigned, although he was never charged. That same year, the town's chief financial officer pleaded guilty to misappropriation of funds.

    Mayor Della Donna is expected to be in court later on this afternoon.

    Stay with Eyewitness News and for more on this developing story.

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