Corrupt leaders falling in NJ
Is Hoboken & Hudson County next? One reader believes: “It’s only a matter of time for here and apparently there’s a great attorney who just got hired to work along side Chris Christie. Get ready for the Hudson Co. (& Hoboken) heads to roll!!”
Is that true, or are our leaders on the “up and up”?
Officials arrested in New Jersey corruption probe
Two mayors and two state legislators are among 11 public officials arrested in New Jersey as part of a corruption investigation, the U.S. attorney’s office in Trenton announced Thursday.
“The defendants allegedly demanded and accepted payments ranging from $1,500 to $17,500 at any one time,” the release from the U.S. attorney’s office alleges. “In most cases, the defendants sought to establish and perpetuate a corrupt relationship with the cooperating witnesses to continue receiving bribes.”
State Assemblymen Mims Hackett Jr. and Alfred E. Steele — both Democrats — and Passaic Mayor Samuel Rivera are among those arrested, the news release says.
Steele also serves as undersheriff in Passaic County, just outside Newark. Hackett is also mayor of Orange. Video Watch who is involved »
Also arrested were Keith O. Reid, the chief of staff to the Newark City Council president, Passaic Councilman Marcellus Jackson and former Passaic Councilman Jonathan Soto, the release states.
Five current and former school board members in Pleasantville, just outside Atlantic City, were arrested, too: Jayson G. Adams, James T. McCormick, James A. Pressley, Rafael Velez and Maurice Callaway, who also serves on the City Council.
A private citizen, Louis Mister, was snatched up in the sting as well, the release states.
“Each of the 11 public officials and one associate accepted the corrupt payments from companies that offered insurance brokerage or roofing services to school districts and municipalities,” the news release said.
According to the criminal complaints against the officials, the FBI set up a phony company to convince the suspects to do business with them.
- Alfred E. Steele, state assemblyman and Passaic County undersheriff
- Samuel “Sammy” Rivera, Passaic mayor
- Mims Hackett, Jr., Orange mayor and state assemblyman
- Jonathan Soto, former Passaic city councilman
- Marcellus Jackson, Passaic city councilman
- Keith O. Reid, chief of staff to Newark City Council president
- Jayson G. Adams, former Pleasantville School Board member
- Maurice “Pete” Callaway, former Pleasantville School Board member and current Pleasantville City Council member
- James T. McCormick, former Pleasantville School Board member
- James A. Pressley, Pleasantville School Board president
- Rafael Velez, Pleasantville School Board member
- Louis Mister, Pleasantville resident
Covert recordings were apparently an integral part of the investigation, as the criminal complaints quote or paraphrase each official — some at length — about what they were willing to do to help the fake company, what they expected in return and the importance of keeping the arrangements hush.
For instance, Reid allegedly coached a cooperating witness on how to surreptitiously accept bribes, warning him not to “let a lot of people in the kitchen” and adding, “You need a buffer or something,” according to the criminal complaint.
The complaint against Soto states the councilman often spoke in code when talking to cooperating witnesses in the case, once sending a text message in November 2006 about an anticipated bribe: “Any word on that cake?”
The following month, Soto allegedly sent a text message to another cooperating witness, saying “Will need that green broccoli for the 1st entree,” according to the complaint.
Rivera allegedly was more overt, according to the complaint against the Passaic mayor. He often boasted of how he could snare Council votes “easy, easy, easy,” the complaint says.
The complaint also states that when a “key employee” of the city questioned him about the phony company’s presentation, Rivera allegedly warned him, “I make the [expletive] decision, and the Council. And believe me, I’ve got the four [expletive] votes on the Council. So let’s stop [expletive], and let’s get this thing rolling.”
The probe began in mid-2006, “amid evidence of corruption in the Pleasantville School District,” the release states.
“In response, the FBI established an undercover insurance brokerage company purporting to employ the government’s two cooperating witnesses and undercover agents,” according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Pleasantville school board members allegedly accepted thousands of dollars in bribes from the cooperating witnesses, the release states.
The Pleasantville school board members also referred undercover agents to public officials in northern New Jersey, who accepted bribes as well, according to the release. The northern New Jersey officials referred the undercover agents to “still other corrupt public officials,” the news release states.
The Star-Ledger in Newark, New Jersey, citing sources close to the investigation, reported that the officials were arrested on bribery charges. The U.S. attorney’s office said it would divulge the charges Thursday afternoon.
Those arrested will begin making appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Tonianne Bongiovanni at 2 p.m. Thursday. U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie and FBI agent Weysan Dun are expected to hold a 3:30 p.m. news conference afterward in front of the federal courthouse in Trenton. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend