Friday, July 24, 2009

New Jersey and Corruption: Perfect Together (Again)

It's starting to sink in around these parts that New Jersey is the home to corruption. Yesterday's massive sweep and arrest of government officials just goes to show that these politicians only care about lining their own pockets, and not their constituents best interests.

This corruption investigation began with an investigation into money laundering of several Jewish charities in Brooklyn and Deal, New Jersey, that led back to Israel.
Federal prosecutors in the U.S. said the investigation focused on a money laundering network that operated between Brooklyn, N.Y.; Deal, N.J.; and Israel. The network is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars through Jewish charities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey.

Prosecutors then used an informant in that investigation to help them go after corrupt politicians. The informant -- a real estate developer charged with bank fraud three years ago -- posed as a crooked businessman and paid a string of public officials tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to get approvals for buildings and other projects in New Jersey, authorities said.
That's where all the politicians fit in to this whole scheme.

Here's a handy dandy graphic at the NY Post that shows some of the key players.

One of those arrested, Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez (D), figured out how to benefit from suing everyone who ever said anything crosswise. He used his legal defense fund as a slush fund:
Anthony Suarez, 42, was arrested on federal corruption charges for allegedly agreeing to accept $10,000 in corrupt cash payments for his legal defense fund. The fund was set up to defray the cost of a longtime court battle with a Ridgefield resident.

“I was surprised that my lawsuit and his legal defense fund may have made it feasible for him to accept illegal contributions,” said Michael Mecca, the resident who countersued Suarez after the mayor’s defamation suit was dismissed.

Suarez agreed to accept the cash from a government cooperator posing as a developer who wanted preferential treatment for his building projects, authorities said. The mayor returned from a family vacation on the Jersey Shore Thursday morning to surrender to federal authorities, said Democratic Councilman Javier Acosta.
The situation isn't all that different in Secaucus, where another Democratic mayor, Dennis Ewell, faces similar charges.
But the details of Thursday’s federal grand jury indictment, which accuses him of accepting a $10,000 cash bribe to assist an FBI informant in his efforts to build a hotel, shocked even his most hardened foes.

“I don’t think there’s anybody more stunned than me,” said Independent Councilman Michael Gonnelli, who is running against Elwell for mayor. He added: “I think he should resign immediately.”

Ronald Manzo, a former Democratic fund-raiser and owner of an insurance company who pleaded guilty to federal charges of insider trading, conspiracy and perjury in 2004, served as the middleman for the informant and Elwell, according to the indictment.
The Manzo clan is deep in this mess, as - Louis Manzo, Michael Manzo, and Ronald Manzo, are all charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. There are calls for Elwell to step down and withdraw from the race for mayor in November.

And while most of the corruption is focused on New Jersey, there are tentacles extending into Brooklyn and Israel.

This symbolizes why these politicians engage in corrupt activities. They know they can get away with it and even if they're indicted, they know that their constituents will vote for them in overwhelming fashion:
Hoboken's new mayor, Peter Cammarano, reportedly was caught on tape boasting, "I could be indicted, and I'd still win 85 to 95 percent" of the vote in his key constituencies.

Indeed, Acting US Attorney Ralph Marra said the arrests "underscore the pervasive nature of public corruption" in the Garden State. It is "not only pervasive," he added, "it has become ingrained in New Jersey's culture."

No comments: