HUDSON COUNTY - This Friday (July 23) marks the one-year anniversary of the massive New Jersey corruption scandal that rocked the Garden State last summer and led to the arrests of 44 public officials and religious leaders. Two additional people were eventually charged in connection with the investigation, although they were not among the initial 44 arrests made in July, 2009.
After being arrested in 2006 on bank fraud charges totaling about $50 million, Ocean Township real estate developer Solomon Dwek cut a deal with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and became an informant. Last year, acting on behalf of the FBI, Dwek posed as a developer interested in Hudson County real estate and offered cash to public officials who were running for election. In some case, he made his overtures through campaign aides. He offered the cash in exchange for help with local government approvals for supposed developments.
Since the scandal broke, one of those charged has gone to trial and been convicted, while 18 others have pleaded guilty. Several others have pleaded not guilty and await trials.
Among those pleading guilty was former Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano. In April Cammarano pleaded guilty to one count of "conspiracy to obstruct commerce by extortion under the color of right," a felony. He is scheduled to be sentenced in early August and could be facing 20 years in prison.
Former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, who was also arrested last year, has pleaded not guilty to allegedly accepting $15,000 in "corrupt payments," according to his November indictment. The indictment charges that Elwell accepted $10,000 to help Dwek with "real estate development matters in
Secaucus," while a political associate, Ron Manzo, allegedly received $5,000 "for his assistance in setting up the corrupt arrangement with Elwell.
Elwell and Manzo continue to maintain their innocence.
Elwell is scheduled to go to trial next February.
Former Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini was convicted in February on two counts of bribery for accepting $20,000 from Dwek. A federal juryconcluded that Beldini agreed to help expedite a development deal for Dwek in exchange for campaign cash for Jerramiah Healy's 2009 reelection bid.The jury acquitted Beldini, 75, of four other counts. A judge sentenced her to three years behind bars and she was ordered to paya $30,000 fine. Her lawyer is appealing her conviction.
Former Jersey City planning aide Guy Catrillo is already serving his 18-month sentence at Fort Dix Federal Correctional Institution. Former Jersey City Councilman Phil Kenny is also currently serving a 366-day sentence in connection with the case.
Last fall Dwek pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges and misconduct by a corporate official. To read what impact the corruption sting had on the political landscape, see www.HudsonReporter.com this weekend.