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Oury gets three years probation for role in grant-writing scheme

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot File Photo

Attorney Dennis Oury was sentenced to three years probation today for his role in a scheme with former Bergen County Democratic Chairman Joseph Ferriero to hide their interests in a grant-writing company that solicited work from local officials.

“The court wants to be clear what you did in this case was reprehensible,” U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler told Oury.

However, the judge cut him a break for his role in helping the government prosecute Ferriero.

“Sometimes people who are good people do horrendous things,” said the judge, who also fined Oury $17,500, payable immediately. “By cooperating, you’ve done what you could to rectify the harm.”

“The only thing I want to say is I apologize to my family and to my wife for putting them through this,” Oury said when given the opportunity to speak.

Oury, 62, pleaded guilty in September 2009 to two of a dozen counts returned by a federal grand jury — conspiracy to commit mail fraud and failing to file a personal tax return (2006) — two days before he was to go on trial in U.S. District Court in Newark.

He admitted in court that he and Ferriero defrauded Bergenfield of $134,000 and the right to his “honest services” by not disclosing his ownership in the firm, Governmental Grants Consulting, even though he was borough attorney when the contract with GGC was approved.

Sentencing repeatedly was delayed, first so that Oury could testify against Ferriero and, then, as a result of what his attorney said were unresolved issues that he wouldn’t disclose publicly.

Oury told jurors in Ferriero’s 2009 trial that his former pal produced a “hit list” of towns that he believed would award contracts to a sham grant-writing firm in which both men were silent partners.

Oury talked for two hours about what he said was Ferriero’s blueprint to steer contracts for their shadow company, initially run by a pair of front men, to municipal clients who would heed their recommendations.

Oury said he figured their connections would help him and Ferriero seal a host of deals, as long as they could find a “public face” who would front the venture.

The two PR men they hired told jurors that they bagged it after a week because they were uncomfortable with their assignments. A licensed community planner took over and quickly snagged $1.4 million in state and county funds in 2004 for Bergenfield — where Ferriero at the time held sway and Oury had just been appointed borough attorney — to buy and preserve the historic Marchbank estate.

Oury said their employees lied about the company’s expertise simply as a way of conning local officials into awarding a sizable contract. Oury also identified a notebook the government took into evidence from Ferriero as one that included a “hit list” of other towns they hoped to sell their bogus business to.

Although Ferriero was convicted of three of eight mail-fraud counts, Chesler cleared him in 2010 after the U.S. Supreme Court limited the law to schemes involving payoffs.

Oury, the former chief counsel for the BCDO and the Bergen County Improvement Authority, was highly influential in planning and zoning throughout the county, representing developers, businesses fighting government regulations and candidates fighting election errors.

He’s also served as counsel to Paramus, Hackensack, South Hackensack, Fort Lee, Fairview, North Bergen, Palisades Park, Leonia and Garfield; the school boards in Fairview, Bogota, Palisades Park; the zoning boards of boards of adjustment in Englewood, New Milford, Paramus and Edgewater; and as a special master in Tenafly.

Oury attended Seton Hall Law School and lived, variously, in Edgewater, Fairview and River Edge before moving to Florida.

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