Corruption probe snares New Jersey mayors, officials
A federal corruption investigation has led to the arrest of the mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus and Ridgefield, N.J., along with two state assemblymen, several other officials from Jersey City and five rabbis, according to the FBI’s New Jersey office. A total of 44 individuals were arrested in the investigation of a “high-volume, international money laundering conspiracy” that eventually led to a corruption investigation against the city officials, said Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra.
Newly elected Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell and Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez were arrested Thursday on charges of taking or, in Suarez’s case, agreeing to take bribes. Cammarano allegedly accepted $25,000 in cash bribes from an undercover cooperating witness, Elwell allegedly accepted a $10,000 bribe from the witness, and Suarez allegedly agreed to accept a $10,000 bribe for his legal defense fund.
In the early stages of the investigation, which began in June 2007, the cooperating witness helped investigators uncover members of the money laundering operation, but then went on to approach city officials, posing as a developer who wanted his projects prioritized. The bribe-taking was partly connected to fundraising efforts in the mayoral and city council campaigns in Jersey City and Hoboken, according to the FBI. “This investigation has once again identified a corrupt network of public officials who were all too willing to take cash in exchange for promised official action,” said Marra. “It seemed that everyone wanted a piece of the action. The corruption was widespread and pervasive.”
Also charged in the investigation were former Jersey City mayoral candidates L. Harvey Smith and Louis Manzo, and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini. Smith is also a state assemblyman, and his fellow Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt also was arrested on charges of accepting a $10,000 bribe. “Any corruption is unacceptable — anywhere, anytime, by anybody,” New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine said in a statement. “The scale of corruption we’re seeing as this unfolds is simply outrageous and cannot be tolerated.”
More information is available at http://newark.fbi.gov/dojpressrel/2009/nk072309.htm.