Another mayor targeted in corruption probe

July 25, 2009 4:07:03 AM PDT
There is a significant development involving another politician in this case. Jersey City Mayor Jeremiah Healy is acknowledging that he is also under investigation.

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    We want to be clear that he has not been charged.

    Healy released a statement on Friday saying that he did nothing wrong.

    But based on the criminal complaint, it is clear that Healy met with the key government witness in March of this year about development projects in Jersey City.

    The complaint targets Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, who is charged with taking 20-thousand dollars in bribes.

    Beldini served as Healy's treasurer for his 2009 mayoral campaign, and she is accused of collecting cash on Healy's behalf, in exchange for promising to fast-track the cooperating witness -- or c-w's -- development projects.

    Throughout the complaint, Healy is referred to as 'J-C Official 4.'

    In one recorded exchange, "Beldini responded that she could say one thing about J-C Official 4. J-C Official 4 remembered J-C Official 4's friends, and J-C Official 4's word was gold."

    Later the complaint describes how, "?at a diner in Jersey City, defendant Cheatam and defendant Shaw accepted $10,000 in cash each from the c-w, including $5,000 a piece to "convert" into contributions for J-C Official 4."

    Edward Cheatem, a city official, and Jack Shaw, a political consultant, have also been charged with taking bribes.

    Healy has suspended all of the Jersey City workers charged in the corruption investigation without pay.

    Meantime, Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano says he won't resign and plans to continue running the city as he fights federal corruption charges.

    Camarrano took no questions at city hall, but Hoboken's newly elected mayor answered the key one.

    The 33-year-old election law attorney, who won a runoff election weeks ago, is accused of taking $25,000 in bribes from a developer. The developer was cooperating with the FBI and wore a wire.

    Camarrano battled hard to win his job in a tough runoff election and he is clearly going to fight just as hard to keep it in spite of being the most prominent defendant in a federal public corruption takedown.

    The mayor denies the charges and says he's "fully capable" of fulfilling his oath of office while his case is pending.

    Camarrano and two other New Jersey mayors, Dennis Elwel of Seacaucus and Anthony Suarez of Ridgefield City, and two New Jersey assemblyman, Daniel Van Pelt and L Harvey Smith, are among 29 public officials accused of trading political favors for cash bribes.

    In Secaucus, where Mayor Elwel's parking spot was visibly vacant, city council members converged for an emergency caucus. Ridgefield's mayor too was a no show at work on Friday. Many communities are paralyzed with political uncertainty.

    Meantime, Democrats were regrouping because the case threatened to mar Gov. Jon Corzine's re-election bid.

    Corzine isn't implicated in any wrongdoing, but he asked for and received the resignation of Community Affairs Commissioner Joe Doria, whose home and offices were raided by FBI agents in Thursday's sweep.

    Corzine also lives in Hoboken.

    "In the very short run there are a lot of people who are hitting the panic button, they're nervous, they're concerned," Michael Murphy, a former county prosecutor and Democratic gubernatorial candidate, said of Democrats who are watching the Corzine campaign. "But it's July. There's a lot of time for this to play out."

    The governor trails GOP challenger Chris Christie in early polls. Christie and his running mate, Monmouth County Sheriff Kim Guadagno, are both former prosecutors who have vowed to clean up New Jersey's culture of corruption.

    Murphy, who said he spoke with the governor by telephone on Friday, ended their 10-minute conversation convinced that Corzine remained committed to the race even after 44 people were rounded up by federal authorities in Thursday's early morning corruption bust. The investigation was overseen by Christie while he was U.S. attorney and continued under his successor, U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra.

    "Jon Corzine is a fighter," said Murphy. "At the end of the day, he is still a Marine. He's digging in and going to stay the course" through the Nov. 3 election.

    Sen. Ray Lesniak of Union acknowledged that the arrests, mostly of Democrats, had party members reeling. However, he said the governor could minimize the political damage to his re-election bid if he focuses on core issues: creating jobs and quality education, getting guns off the streets.

    "It all depends on how he reacts to it (the scandal)," said Lesniak, a Corzine ally.

    Weysan Dun, special agent in charge of the FBI's Newark field office, was quick to dispel any notion that politics was a motive for the arrests and prosecutions.

    "This case is not about politics, it is certainly not about religion," Dun said. "It is about crime, corruption, it is about arrogance, it is about a shocking betrayal of the public trust."

    Christie said he worked "extraordinarily hard" to combat corruption during seven years as New Jersey's top federal prosecutor. He called Thursday's arrests "another example that there is much work still to be done."

    "It is a bad day for the citizens when they are once again disappointed by their public officials," Christie said while campaigning in West New York on Thursday.

    It was just last month that Corzine appeared at Peter Cammarano's swearing-in, warmly welcoming the rising Democratic Party star into the political fold after he won a run-off election to become Hoboken's mayor. It's an image the governor might want to erase now that the mayor is accused of accepting thousands of dollars in bribes.

    More likely, photos of Cammarano and the governor will become fodder for GOP campaign commercials as the race stretches on into the fall. Corzine has tried to link Christie to sweetheart deals he gave to friends and political allies as a federal prosecutor, and Christie is all but certain to return the favor.

    "Given how Gov. Corzine has attempted to link Chris Christie to public corruption, the Republicans got their cannon fodder yesterday," said Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University. "They will try to paint Gov. Corzine with the paint brush of public corruption, particularly with Mr. Cammarano."

    The Sierra Club's Jeff Tittel had even less kind words about the governor's re-election bid.

    "I think this was the last straw," said Tittel, an outspoken Corzine critic. "I think that party leaders realize that even with his money he can't win. This takes away from him the one thing he had going for him, that there wasn't a scandal that touched his administration."

    Corzine is scheduled to name Sen. Loretta Weinberg of Teaneck as his running mate on Saturday. Weinberg has a reputation for taking on members of her own party with whom she disagrees, including former Bergen County party boss Joseph Ferriero, who was indicted on federal corruption charges and is scheduled for trial in the fall.

    ---
    Information from the Associated Press is used in this report.

    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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