Developer who bribed Mariano gets 2 1/2 years He had paid gym fees for the former councilman after getting help to buy city property at a discount.

Posted: August 09, 2006

The developer who paid Rick Mariano's gym fees, a self-made millionaire who overcame personal adversity, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison yesterday.

Reinaldo Pastrana, 46, had pleaded guilty to three counts of bribery. He had received help from the former city councilman in purchasing city-owned property at American and Somerset Streets for a quarter of its assessed value.

After the land deal was completed, Pastrana paid three years' worth of gym fees - $5,400 - for Mariano's membership at the Sporting Club at Bellevue.

What Pastrana and Mariano did was "painfully illegal," said U.S. District Judge Lawrence F. Stengel.

"This practice of low-level bribing is not unique, here or in other major cities," Stengel said. "Certainly, people are watching to see what happens."

Before he was sentenced, Pastrana gave an emotional, 10-minute statement, pausing several times to take a tissue from a box on the courtroom podium.

"I am truly sorry," he said. "I swear to you on my family I never tried to hide any payments. . . . They were all paid by credit card and documented. I'm so very, very sorry. This worthless feeling of sorrow and regret will live in me forever."

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Schwartz said that Pastrana has lived "a life of enormous contradiction."

A developer and beer distributor, Pastrana accumulated a net worth of $4 million but failed to pay state and federal government taxes of more than $1 million, Schwartz said.

"He is a liar, a cheater and a criminal," Schwartz said, alluding to Pastrana's state convictions for tax and theft charges.

Pastrana served two years in prison on the state charges. He was on parole at the time he paid Mariano's gym fees.

Pastrana's attorney, Brian McMonagle, said that it is "vitally important to realize that Mr. Pastrana never tried to solicit and bribe Councilman Mariano. . . . It was Councilman Mariano who called Mr. Pastrana after the land transactions and told him that he was having financial problems."

"The story of Reinaldo Pastrana reveals a life of great accomplishment in the midst of great adversity," McMonagle said.

Pastrana's father died when he was 12 years old. His first wife abandoned him and their young son, and later, a girlfriend committed suicide and killed their toddler daughter.

At age 21, Pastrana, who did not have a college degree, borrowed money and started his own beverage distribution company, McMonagle said. He began another business, purchasing and rehabilitating unwanted and vacant property, eventually building a shopping center, Plaza Americana, and he became a millionaire. For 10 years, he organized and hosted the festival at American Street and Lehigh Avenue.

"He lived out his dream and I admire that very much," said his son, Lance Pastrana.

Mariano, who was sentenced to 6 1/2 years, reported to prison Monday at Fort Dix in Burlington County.

Contact staff writer John Shiffman at 215-854-2658 or jshiffman@phillynews.com.

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