NBC News and news services
NEWARK, N.J. – Three New Jersey mayors, two state lawmakers, a deputy mayor and five rabbis were among 44 people charged Thursday in a two-track corruption and international money-laundering probe, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for New Jersey announced.
The investigation began as a probe into a money-laundering ring that allegedly trafficked in goods as diverse as human organs and fake designer handbags. Based on information from a cooperating witness, the probe then widened to government corruption when the witness approached public officials about bribes, the attorney’s office said in a statement.
FBI and IRS agents arrested most of the suspects Thursday morning in what is being described as one of the biggest investigations of its kind in New Jersey history. [...]
This investigation has once again identified a corrupt network of public officials who were all too willing to take cash in exchange for promised official action,” acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra said in a statement. “It seemed that everyone wanted a piece of the action.”
Those arrested included:
- Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III, charged with accepting $25,000 in cash bribes from an undercover cooperating witness.
- Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith, charged along with an aide of taking $15,000 in bribes to help get approvals from high-level state agency officials for building projects.
- Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt, charged with accepting a $10,000 bribe.
- Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, charged with taking a $10,000 bribe.
Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez, charged with agreeing to accept a $10,000 corrupt cash payment for his legal defense fund.
- Former Assemblyman Louis Manzo, charged with taking $27,500 in corrupt cash payments for use in his failed Jersey City mayoral campaign.
- Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, charged with taking $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions.
- Eliahu Ben Haim, a rabbi at a synagogue in Deal, N.J., charged with money laundering.
- Saul Kassin, the chief rabbi of a synagogue in Brooklyn, charged with money laundering.
- Edmund Nahum, the principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal, charged with money laundering.
- Mordchai Fish, a rabbi at a synagogue in Brooklyn, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.
- His brother Albert Schwartz, also a rabbi, was charged as well.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the investigation initially focused, with the help of the cooperating witness, on a money-laundering network operating between Brooklyn, Deal and Israel. The network is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars through charities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey.
The organ trafficking allegedly involved patients paying middlemen to find willing donors in Israel. Investigators allege that the suspects had donors and patients lie to hospitals by saying that they were related. Hospitals would do the operation unaware that cash payments were part of the deal. [more]