Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio confirmed Thursday that there had been a warrant issued for Garcia's arrest.
However, according to published reports, Garcia's attorney, Stephen Turano of Newark, said that Garcia was not involved in the operations of the gambling ring but might have betted infrequently.
Garcia was apparently out of state when investigators attempted to execute the warrant at his Union City home. Turano has since been in touch with the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office, reports said.
Monmouth County Prosecutor Luis Valentin was unable to be reached for comment on Thursday, and Turano was in trial at press time.
Garcia's wife Nicole Garcia has been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Assembly seat of the 33rd District in the upcoming primary election.
Mayor and assemblyman
Garcia, who is a graduate of Columbia University Law School, is an attorney. He started in Union City politics as a member of the Board of Commissioners, then was selected as mayor in January 1998 following the death of Mayor Bruce Walter.
He then narrowly won the election that May against current Mayor Brian Stack.
"I have nothing negative to say about [Garcia]," said Tina Yandolino, who served on the board with Garcia. "I think we came in at a difficult time and there were a lot of issues that we had to deal with, and I think he was successful in getting affordable housing in the city. We got along extremely well, I was allowed to speak my mind, and he was very easy to work with."
A warrant for an arrest does not indicate guilt or innocence, as there has not yet been a trial.
Garcia's political downfall in Union City came in the late 1990s. He suffered from numerous problems, including a state investigation into the practices of the now defunct Union City Democratic Organization, which Garcia chaired, and a large tax increase in his city.
Finally, mayoral hopeful Brian Stack brought forth a movement asking for a recall election. Garcia resigned as mayor on the evening of Oct. 24, 2000.
Garcia completed his term in the state Assembly in 2001.
Garcia continues to live in Union City.
The investigation into the gambling ring, identified as "Operation Thunderbird" in a press conference on Wednesday, was reported to be one of the biggest betting operations in the state's history.
The investigation is being conducted by the Monmouth County Prosecutors Office in collaboration with the New Jersey State Police, several other law enforcement agencies, and the Internal Revenue Service. Jessica Rosero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org