Former Mayor John Bencivengo released from custody: ‘I love Hamilton’
By David Foster, The Trentonian
Monday, June 8, 2015
HAMILTON – Former township Mayor John Bencivengo could have picked anywhere to live after being released from prison.
But the 61-year-old ultimately chose Hamilton, the township he ran from 2007 until he resigned in 2012 due to his federal corruption conviction.
“I love Hamilton,” Bencivengo said Monday in his first interview since being released from custody on Friday. “My heart has always been here.”
The former mayor was convicted in November 2012 of taking $12,400 in exchange for influencing two school board members so that insurance broker Marliese Ljuba could keep her lucrative health insurance brokerage with Hamilton School District.
Beginning to serve his sentence of 38 months on May 30, 2013, Bencivengo was released early from a Pennsylvania federal prison due to good behavior.
He was initially transferred to a halfway house in Philadelphia in December after serving 18 months, then restricted to home confinement in February, which allowed for work release.
“I was able to get a job doing some bookkeeping and scheduling for a friend that owns a trucking company,” Bencivengo said of his current occupation. “My intention is to try to slowly get back into the community life and trying to see what I can do to contribute to the community the best that I can.”
Bencivengo is also in the process of writing a book about his life.
When shopping in Hamilton, Bencivengo said he feels good. “Whatever store I go in, people stop me and they say, ‘Welcome Back,’” he said. “It’s been a great feeling of acceptance here.”The general consensus when he runs into residents is they tell him he did a good job and that his administration helped turn the township around, Bencivengo said. “There has never been one bad spoken word to me in the community,” he said.
The former Republican mayor of a township controlled by the GOP said some from his party have reached out to him, some have not.
“That is their prerogative,” he said, noting Hamilton Mayor Kelly Yaede has yet to contact him. “Basically, I’m going to deal with that as I may. As time goes by, we will see what that brings. But for the most part, I’m living my life the best that I know how now in Hamilton.”
Bencivengo said he hopes the current administration follows the policies that he put in place, in addition to incorporating new ones that serve the people.
“The most important thing is when you’re in office: You have to remember that you work for the people, the people don’t work for you,” he outlined. “They pay you to do the job.”
Bencivengo declined to talk about the case against him. His attorney Jerome Ballarotto previously told The Trentonian the former mayor was his “most wronged” defendant ever.
While serving his sentence in prison, Bencivengo said it was difficult.
“It was tough because my entire life, I had a very clean record,” he said. “I never did anything wrong in my life. And this came along, and I never really experienced any kind of prison.” Bencivengo said it gave him a firsthand look of what happens to people that break the law and end up in prison.
“It’s not a pretty sight, I can tell you that,” he said. “It’s not a comfortable feeling. I really couldn’t wait to get home.”
In between his stint at the halfway house and home confinement, Bencivengo’s mother died in January.
“I miss her deeply,” he said. “I was hoping to come home to her and spend my home confinement with her. But it turns out, I ended up staying in here without her. It was a tough thing.”
Bencivengo will be on probation for three more years, but he hopes to extend his stellar prison record.
“In prison, that’s pretty hard to do,” Bencivengo said, noting a lot of things could go wrong. “I intend to continue that all the way through probation with hopes that I might be able to get an early release from probation.”
Bencivengo said he gave all he had when he was mayor.“I gave the best that I could give and I intend to continue giving and helping people like I did when I was mayor,” he said of the future. “The only place that I know where to do that better is here in Hamilton.”