Thursday, July 23, 2009

NY Metro Area Political Scandal Watch

I'm sure this will come as a surprise, but the FBI has arrested a bunch of New Jersey mayors and other figures in a wide ranging corruption probe.
WNBC-TV in New York reported and showed images of the mayors of Hoboken and Secaucus being taken into FBI headquarters in Newark. The station also showed rabbis being taken into custody.

Radio station New Jersey 101.5 FM reports the sweeps are taking place in Hudson, Bergen, Monmouth and Ocean counties.

The stations say the probe centers on money-laundering and political bid rigging.

FBI spokeswoman Myrna Williams tells The Associated Press the arrests will go on till noon. She would not provide any more information.
Who else has been arrested? These guys:
A New Jersey assemblyman and the mayors of Hoboken and Secaucus were among public officials arrested this morning by FBI agents in a international money laundering and corruption probe that includes rabbis in the Syrian Jewish communities of Deal and Brooklyn.

Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt (R-Ocean), Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, Secaucus Mayor Denis Elwell and Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega are among those who have been already been brought to the FBI building in Newark. Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini has also been arrested. A total of 30 people have been taken into custody, officials said.
The arrests come after two years of investigations that began with a probe into a money transfer scheme between Syrian Jews living in Deal, New Jersey and Brooklyn.

Curiously, only Pelt's political affiliation is mentioned in the Star Ledger, leaving us to wonder why he was singled out, and what the political affiliation was for all the other politicians nabbed in the probe.

The Bergen Record also notes political affiliations, but of only one person - again a Republican. Funny how that works.
Arrested were: Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega, Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Baldini, Jersey City Republican John Guarini, La Vern Webb-Washington, a Jersey City council candidate, Joseph Castagna, Jersey City's health officer, and Michael Manzo, a long-time veteran of the Jersey City fire department.
That's on the heels of still more problems for NY Assemblywoman Democrat Ann Margaret Carrozza, who has turned in a pitiful attendance record - she's been absent from session more than 50% of the time all while she's battling the fact that she doesn't live in the district she represents (and that's a problem found among several politicians at the state and local level in New York.

As for truancy, the New York City Council takes the cake. 20% of the Council doesn't show up regularly, and several show up less than 75% of the time.

Jammie has much more on the developing scandal, including a photo of Gov. Corzine mugging for the cameras with Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano last week when Corzine was busy unveiling the new PATH train cars at Hoboken.

Sentencing recommendations are in for former State Senator Wayne Bryant (a Democrat). Prosecutors want 8-10 years for his role in a low-show job at UMDNJ, which helped funnel money into the state's medical school.
Wayne Bryant, a once-powerful Democrat from Lawnside who served as chairman of the Senate budget committee, is set to be sentenced Friday. He was convicted last year of 12 corruption charges after a jury found he took a "low-show" job at a school in the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey in exchange for bringing state money to the battered institution.

The jury also said he wrongly claimed pension credits for work performed by subordinate lawyers for the Gloucester County Board of Social Services.

Bryant didn't violate any laws by getting the pension credits, but prosecutors persuaded jurors that he broke the law by mailing in timesheets in which he claimed to do work that was really performed by others in his Cherry Hill law firm.

Perp walk:
Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell led in handcuffs into FBI building

Thus far, these are the people who are under arrest and will be indicted as part of this investigation (and their political affiliations - many of which were omitted from early reports except for Republican Van Pelt - will add more names to this list as they become available):

  1. Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell (D)
  2. Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano (D)
  3. Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez (D)
  4. State Assemblyman Peter Van Pelt (R)
  5. former State Assemblyman Lou Manzo (D)
  6. Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega (D)
  7. Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Baldini (D)
  8. Jersey City council candidate Guy Catrillo
  9. Jersey City council candidate La Vern Webb-Washington (D, but ran as independent)
  10. Jersey City health officer Joseph Castagna
  11. Hudson County Affirmative Action officer Edward Cheatam, also a Jersey City Housing Authority commissioner
  12. Former Jersey City Councilman and former state Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith
  13. Richard Greene, former aide to L. Harvey Smith
  14. John Guarini, who ran for Congress (R)
  15. Lou Manzo
  16. Ron Manzo
  17. Michael Manzo (ran as independent)
  18. Political operative Joseph Cardwell
  19. Political operative Jack Shaw
  20. Former 32nd District Senate candidate Denis Jaslow
  21. Richard Green who works in the accounting and purchasing department in Jersey City.
  22. Mordchai Fish
  23. Eliahu Ben Haim
  24. Schmulik Cohen
  25. Levi Deutsch
  26. Yeshayahu Ehrental
  27. Levi Izhak Rosenbaum
  28. Edmond Nahum
  29. Lavel Schwartz
  30. Abraham Pollack
  31. Naftoly Weber
  32. Saul Kassin
  33. Shimon Haber
  34. Joseph Castagna
  35. Maher A. Khalil
  36. Moshe Altman
  37. Charles Amon
  38. Itzak Friedlander

The home of Joseph V. Doria Jr., commissioner of the state Department of Community Affairs, and former mayor of Bayonne, was raided. He too is a Democrat.

Cammarano's indictment is now available online. He's being charged with 18 USC 1951 offenses, for accepting what appears to be $20,000 in bribes (four times apparently accepting or expecting to accept $5,000 in bribes) and extortion.

Van Pelt's indictment reads similarly. He's caught taking $10,000 in bribes and using his position to influence outcomes at different state agencies.

Various Jewish institutions in Deal were raided this morning:
Agents from the FBI, IRS and Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office raided schools and synagogues in Deal this morning. Boxes were removed from the Deal Yeshiva, on the corner of Brighton and Norwood avenues, is a prestigious religious school in town, as well as the Ohel Yaacob synagogue on Ocean Avenue in Deal.
New Jersey and Corruption. Perfect Together Again.

Moe Lane (and here) has more information on the political affiliations, which I've added into my full list.

Here's another list of those arrested, including criminal complaints.

Among those charged is Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, of Brooklyn. His alleged crimes are at odds with those of the others arrested today. He was indicted on crimes relating to the sale of a human kidney for a transplant, at a cost of $160,000 to the transplant recipient. Selling organs is illegal in the US.

Joseph Doria, who was not indicted in today's law enforcement sweep, is stepping down as Gov. Corzine's Community Affairs Commissioner (forced seems more apt). His home was searched by the FBI and they took documents as part of their investigation.

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