Bergen Co. Dem boss, party lawyer indicted

September 9, 2008 5:26:58 PM PDT
The influential chairman of the Bergen County Democratic Organization and a party lawyer have been indicted on federal corruption charges. U.S. Attorney Chris Christie announced the indictments of party chairman Joseph Ferriero and lawyer Dennis Oury on Tuesday.

The eight-count indictment charges them with conspiring to defraud the Borough of Bergenfield and using the mails to further their scheme.

The federal investigation focused on their dealings as partners in a consulting firm, Government Grants Consulting, that did business with a number of local governments in northern New Jersey.

The indictment charges that the two men conspired to conceal Oury's interest in the grant-writing firm from officials in Bergenfield, a town that employed Oury as borough attorney. Oury's dual role posed a conflict of interest, prosecutors alleged.

Federal agents raided the law offices of the two men last month, carting out boxes of documents.

Ferriero is a partner at the Scarinci Hollenbeck law firm in Lyndhurst. Oury works at a law office in Hackensack. Ferriero took a leave of absence as party chairman last week, citing legal difficulties.

Oury and Ferriero are to surrender to authorities on Wednesday and are scheduled for an initial appearance before federal Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox.

Ferriero's attorney, Joseph A. Hayden Jr., issued a statement on behalf of his client saying that he is confident he will be acquitted.

"These criminal charges against Joseph Ferriero have no basis in law or fact. The Government in this case has unfairly transformed a valuable public service and made it into a criminal charge," the statement read.

Gerald Krovatin, an attorney representing Oury, told area newspapers that the indictment was an "opportunistic attempt to stretch the outer limits of the law." He said his client never benefited at the expense of Bergenfield, and that he would work to clear his name and reputation.

Authorities said the investigation began on a tip three years ago from a citizen concerned about some of the financial dealings of the Bergen County Democratic Organization.

Christie, calling the case "another example of people in public life putting self-interest above the public interest," said the investigation was ongoing and would be expanded, but declined to comment on specifics.

Although the charges in the indictment refer only to Bergenfield, at least eight other Bergen County towns and a county government agency have received subpoenas requesting information about payments to Oury.

Gov. Jon Corzine said Tuesday that he had not yet seen the indictment.

"It's always disappointing when there are public corruption issues in the state," Corzine said.

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