NJ corruption arrests net mayors, rabbis

July 23, 2009 2:51:46 PM PDT
Three mayors and two assemblymen were among at least 44 arrested Thursday morning in a major federal corruption sweep in New Jersey. Hoboken's newly-elected mayor, Peter Cammarano, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell and Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez were arrested, as was Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini. Assemblymen Daniel Van Pelt and L. Harvey Smith were also taken into custody. An aide to Smith, Richard Greene, was also arrested.

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  • SLIDESHOW: New Jersey corruption arrests

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    Gov. Corzine announced Community Affairs Commissioner Joseph Doria resigned amid the corruption probe, although Doria had not been arrested.

    Corzine said he asked Doria to step down, and Doria agreed to leave office. When asked why he made the request, Corzine said "Simple: can he be effective in the office that he holds under the conditions that there is a serious investigation going on in the context of this deep vein of corruption that was unveiled today - and the answer is no."

    The number of arrests was noteworthy even for New Jersey, a state that has seen more than 130 public officials plead guilty or be convicted of corruption since 2001.

    "New Jersey's corruption problem is one of the worst, if not the worst, in the nation," said Ed Kahrer, who heads the FBI's white collar and public corruption investigation division. "Corruption is a cancer that is destroying the core values of this state."

    Corzine reacted to the corruption probe by saying, "any corruption is unacceptable - anywhere, anytime, by anybody. The scale of corruption we're seeing as this unfolds is simply outrageous and cannot be tolerated."

    The 32-year-old Cammarano, a Democrat who won a runoff election last month, is accused of accepting $25,000 in cash bribes, including $10,000 just last Thursday from a government witness posing as a real estate developer. Elwell is charged with taking $10,000.

    Joseph Hayden, an attorney representing Cammarano, said his client "is innocent of these charges. He intends to fight them with all his strength until he proves his innocence."

    Suarez, who is also an attorney, is charged with agreeing to accept an illegal $10,000 cash payment for his legal defense fund.

    Van Pelt is accused of accepting $10,000 from a cooperating government witness posing as a developer who sought help in getting permits for a project in Ocean County.

    Smith, a former Jersey City mayoral candidate who served four years as the city's council president, and several other current and former Jersey City public officials also are accused of accepting money to help the fake developer gain permits and approvals.

    The Jersey City officials include:

  • Beldini
  • Jersey City Council President Mario Vega
  • Jersey City Council candidate La Vern Webb-Washington
  • John Guarini, Jersey City Republican, also chairman of the Jersey City 9/11 Committee
  • Guy Catrillo, Jersey City Republican
  • Joseph Castagna, Jersey City Health Officer
  • Louis Manzo, a former Assemblyman and Jersey City mayor candidate
  • Michael Manzo, Jersey City fire arson investigator

    Beldini, 74, is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion by taking $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions. Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy said Thursday the charges were "a little shocking."

    "I have full faith in Leona," Healy said. "She's a good friend of mine - was and will be."

    In secretly recorded conversations outlined in the complaint against Cammarano, the candidate made it clear to prospective campaign donors that he was a friend of developers.

    When the cooperating witness posing as a developer, who was donating $5,000 to the campaign, told Cammarano just days before the mayoral election that he wanted to make sure he had his support with "some properties we're working on," Cammarano is quoted as saying, "I'll be there."

    Authorities also raided several synagogues, arresting rabbis from New York and New Jersey who are accused of money laundering. The rabbis were charged with offenses ranging from the trafficking of kidneys from Israeli donors to laundering proceeds from selling fake Gucci and Prada bags. One of the suspects, Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum, is accused of enticing people to give up a kidney for $10,000 and reselling for $160,000.

    The suspects were brought to FBI Headquarters in Downtown Newark. Officials say the arrests were made by agents with the FBI and IRS.

    Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who has fought corruption in New Jersey's largest city, says it was "an unbelievable morning."

    Full list of those arrested and charges:

    Political Corruption

  • Moshe Altman, 39, of Monsey, NY, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right & money laundering
  • Charlie Ammon, 33, of Lakewood, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Leona Beldini, 74, of Jersey City, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Peter Cammarano III, 32, of Hoboken, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Joseph Cardwell, 68, of Jersey City, NJ, charged with agreeing to offer bribe to public official
  • Joseph Castagna, 53, of Jersey City, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Guy Catrillo, 54, of Jersey City, NJ, charged with attempted extortion under color of official right
  • Edward Cheatam, 61, of Jersey City, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right & attempted extortion
  • Dennis Elwell, 64, of Secaucus, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Itzak Friedlander, 41, of Union City, NJ, charged with money laundering conspiracy
  • Richard Greene, 45, of Jersey City, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • John Guarini, 59, of Bayonne, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Shimon Haber, 34, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with money laundering conspiracy
  • Denis Jaslow, 46, of Wall, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Maher A. Khalil, 39, of Jersey City, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right & attempted extortion
  • James P. "Jimmy" King, 67, of Jersey City, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Louis Manzo, 54, of Jersey City, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Michael Manzo, 53, of Jersey City, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Ronald Manzo, 65, of Bayonne, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Michael Schaffer, 58, of Hoboken, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Lori Serrano, 37, of Jersey City, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Jack Shaw, 61, of Jersey City, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • L. Harvey Smith, 60, of Jersey City, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Anthony R. Suarez, 42, of Ridgefield, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Vincent Tabbachino, 68, of Fairview, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right & money laundering
  • Daniel M. Van Pelt, 44, of Waretown, NJ, charged with attempted extortion under color of official right
  • Mariano Vega, 59, of Jersey City, NJ, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Lavern Webb-Washington, 60, of Jersey City, charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right
  • Jeffrey Williamson, 57, of Lakewood, NJ, charged with attempted extortion under color of official right

    For the charge of conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right and/or attempted extortion under color of official right, the maximum statutory penalties are 20 years in federal prison and a maximum statutory fine of $250,000. For the charge of agreeing to offer a bribe payment to a public official, the maximum statutory penalties are 10 years in Federal prison and a maximum statutory fine of $250,000.

    Money Laundering/Illegal Money Remitting

  • Eliahu Ben Haim, 58, of Long Branch, NJ, charged with money laundering.
  • Schmulik Cohen, 35, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with money laundering and illegal money transmitting.
  • Levi Deutsch, 37, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with money laundering.
  • Yeshayahu Ehrental, 65, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with money laundering and illegal money transmitting.
  • Mordchai Fish, 56, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with money laundering.
  • Yolie Gertner, 30, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with money laundering.
  • David S. Goldhirsh, 30, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with money laundering.
  • Saul Kassin, 87, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with money laundering.
  • Edmund Nahum, 56, of Deal, NJ, charged with money laundering.
  • Abe Pollack, 40, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with money laundering.
  • Lavel Schwartz, 57, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with money laundering.
  • Binyomin Spira, 28, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with money laundering.
  • Naftoly Weber, 40, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with money laundering.
  • Arye Weiss, 34, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with money laundering and illegal money transmitting.

    For the charge of conspiring to commit money laundering, the maximum statutory penalties are 20 years in Federal prison and a maximum statutory fine of $250,000. For the charge of conspiring to conduct an illegal money transmitting business, the maximum statutory penalties are 5 years in Federal prison and a maximum statutory fine of $250,000.

    Human Organ Trafficking

  • Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum, 58, of Brooklyn, NY, charged with conspiracy to transport human organs

    For the charge of conspiring to transport human organs, the maximum statutory penalties are 5 years in Federal prison and a maximum statutory fine of $250,000.


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