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Pay-to-Play Prosecution

Around the State – Central JerseyKEYPORT Mayor John J. Merla faces a new indictment on charges of extortion. Merla, one of 11 Monmouth County public officials arrested last February in an FBI pay-to-play investigation, was charged with extorting $1,000 from the owner of a solid-waste disposal company under contract with the borough.

Merla allegedly demanded the payment from a Woodbridge-based trash hauler in exchange for help retaining the company’s contract with the borough. The company, identified only as a “cooperating witness,” claims it was also instructed to collect trash from locations connected to Merla at Keyport’s expense. The trash pickups were made at fund-raising and campaign events Merla organized, at the homes of political supporters, from sites where construction work was performed by his relatives and at a restaurant owned by his relatives.

Merla was previously charged in a seven-count indictment in October on charges including conspiracy and receiving corrupt payments. The new corruption charge carries penalties of up to 20 years in federal prison and a maximum fine of $250,000.

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