Wednesday, July 29, 2009

New Jersey Corruption Saga and Investigation Continue

You will recall that a few days ago the FBI arrested 44 persons -- most of them New Jersey government officials -- for taking bribes, mostly in exchange for promises of help with real estate developments. The bribe-giver, however, was a "cooperating witness" -- a man called Dwek -- who had himself gotten in legal trouble a few years earlier (by passing a bad $25 million check at a bank drive-through window) and was apparently doing his best, for a very long period of time, to reduce his eventual punishment for his own defalcations. These arrests have put into motion a series of interesting events. See the following headlines (which tell much of the story) and the following linked stories in publications of nj.com:

Augustin Torres, "Solomon Dwek [the copperating witness] must have met every politically connected person in Hudson County," Jersey Journal (July 28, 2009)

A snippet:

Solomon Dwek must have met everyone on the Hudson County political landscape the past two years while on his FBI-motivated mission to entice and corrupt anyone with insider influence. His work resulted in the arrest of 44 individuals Thursday, many of them public officials.

What is interesting is the number of people who are eager to contact members of the media to reveal that they had encounters with the federal government's cooperating witness or Mr. 'CW,' who has been identified as Solomon Dwek.

"200 call for Cammarano [mayor of Hoboken] to quit office" Jersey Journal (July 28, 2009)
A snippet:

In Hoboken, neither rain nor a little hail could deter roughly 200 people who came to City Hall last night to protest Mayor Peter's Cammarano's decision to remain in office even though he has a corruption charge hanging over his head.

Amy Clark, "Jersey City City Council President Mariano Vega to quit abatement panel, but won't resign" Jersey Journal (July 28, 2009)
A snippet:

Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega Jr. said yesterday he was as surprised as anybody else to find himself participating in a perp walk last week and he has no intention of resigning his posts.

"The events from this past Thursday are as shocking to me as everyone else," Vega read from a statement at the council's caucus meeting.

"Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell will resign, but contest federal corruption charge," Star-Ledger (July 28, 2009)
A snippet:

Mayor Dennis Elwell [mayor of Seacaucus, NJ] is the first elected official arrested in last week's corruption sweep in New Jersey to say he'll resign.

Elwell's lawyer said his client is stepping down, but is not admitting guilt and will defend himself against the allegations.

"Jersey City pol basks in limelight of political corruption arrest: video," Jersey Journal (July 28, 2009)
A snippet:

A Jersey City political operative [Joseph Cardwell] exhibited Jersey perp walk technique No. 4 when leaving the federal courthouse on Thursday after being charged in the massive corruption scandal, according to a "Ledger Live" video that also shows former Jersey City council candidate LaVern Webb-Washington covering her head with clothes and replays Mayor Jerramiah Healy singing the "Bradley Beach Prison Blues.''

Joseph Cardwell, accused of agreeing to offer a bribe to a public official, can be heard saying, "Like a rock star, right" as news photographers jump in his path, snapping away like paparazzi.

N.B. The video is well worth watching. It includes a snippet showing Mayor Jerramiah Healy singing a New Jersey variant of the "Folsom Prison Blues." [Did ASCAP get its money?]
Augustin Torres, "Jack Shaw, figure in massive NJ corruption scandal, found dead in Jersey City," Jersey Journal (July 28, 2009)
A snippet:

Jack Shaw of Jersey City, one of the 44 people arrested in Thursday's massive New Jersey corruption scandal, was found dead in his apartment this evening, Hudson County Prosecutor Edward DeFazio has confirmed.

A relative found the 61-year-old political consultant's body, De Fazio said.

"6 Jersey City employees in sweep are off municipal payroll," Jersey Journal (July 29, 2009)
A snippet:

Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini; John Guarini, a clerk in the Building Department; Maher Khalil, deputy director of the city's Department of Health and Human Services; Joseph Castagna, the city's health officer; Guy Catrillo, a former City Council candidate and planning aide; and Michael Manzo, a firefighter are the six Jersey City employees arrested in last week's corruption sweep, officials confirmed. yesterday.

Paul Takahashi, "100 outside City Hall demand resignations from Healy, Lopez and Vega," Jersey Journal (July 29, 2009)
A snippet:

About 100 people are demonstrating outside City Hall in Jersey City, demanding that Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, City Council President Mariano Vega and Councilwoman Nidia Lopez resign.

[snip, snip]

Vega was charged in a massive FBI sting last week. He is charged with three $10,000 payments for his re-election campaign. Healy has not been charged, but has said he's Jersey City Official 4 in the criminal complaint against Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, Hudson County Affirmative Action Officer Ed Cheatam and political consultant Jack Shaw.

The complaint alleges that Cheatam, Shaw and Beldini accepted bribes as campaign contributions to Healy's campaign; and that Healy met twice with the FBI informant who offered the bribes.

Shaw was found dead Tuesday night in his home.

Lopez was not charged in the sting, but an opponent in the May election, Jimmy King, who was charged in the sting, has filed a lawsuit questioning her residency in Jersey City.

Paul Takahashi, "Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy says he won't resign," Jersey Journal (July 29, 2009)
A snippet:

"I was accused of no wrongdoing," said the mayor, who was alluded to as "JC Official 4" in the federal criminal complaint against Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, Hudson County Affirmative Action Officer Ed Cheatam and political strategist Jack Shaw, who was found dead in his apartment yesterday. "I intend on doing the job that people elected me to do."

More prosecutorial shoes will probably fall. The big question now is whether one of them will fall on Mayor Healy.

Josh Margolin & Mark Mueller, "Feds issue subpoenas in Hoboken, Jersey City, Ridgefield, Secaucus," Star-Ledger (July 29, 2009)

A snippet:

Federal investigators have served subpoenas on government offices in four New Jersey communities where elected officials were swept up last week in a sprawling FBI corruption probe.

Are state and local prosecutors doing anything? It is possible that New Jersey's attorney general, probably with prodding from New Jersey's Governor Corzine (whose re-election prospects have been damaged by the scandal), will do something. But local prosecutors in Hudson County (which encompasses Jersey City [the actual venue for Marlon Brando {"I cudda been somebody"} in "On the Waterfront" {which was a story about the Brooklyn docks}] and Hoboken [Frank Sinatra's birthplace], who cannot be accused of having an excessive amount of courage or imagination, will very probably bring no charges; they don't seem to be much interested in high-level political corruption in New Jersey. And that's an old story.

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