Thursday, July 23, 2009

Two NJ Mayors and some Rabbis walk into a courthouse...

Mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus, Several Rabbis Arrested (Update4)

The mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield and Secaucus, New Jersey, and several rabbis are among at least 30 people arrested today as part of a public corruption and money-laundering investigation by U.S. authorities.

Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, 32, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, 64, Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez, 42, all Democrats, Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega Jr., 59, and State Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt, 44, a Republican from Ocean Township, were arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. They are scheduled to appear in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, later today.

“Approximately 30 arrests have occurred this morning in a two-track federal investigation of public corruption and a high- volume, international money-laundering conspiracy,” Michael Drewniak, a spokesman for acting U.S. Attorney Ralph Marra, said in a statement.

The roundup of suspects is one of the largest ever in New Jersey, where more than 100 public officials have been convicted of corruption in the past few years. Prosecutors worked with an undercover witness who had been charged with bank fraud in May 2006, according to FBI criminal complaints.

Cammarano, Hoboken’s youngest mayor, was sworn in July 1. Former state Assemblyman Louis Manzo, 54, a Democrat from Jersey City, Leona Beldini, a deputy mayor of Jersey City, and several rabbis in New York and New Jersey were among those arrested.

Rabbis Named

The rabbis included Saul Kassin, 87, chief rabbi of Sharee Zion, a synagogue in Brooklyn, New York; Eliahu Ben Haim, 58, the principal rabbi of Congregation Ohel Yaacob in Deal, New Jersey; Edmond Nahum, 56, of Deal Synagogue in Deal; Mordchai Fish, 56, of Congregation Sheves Achim in Brooklyn; and Lavel Schwartz, 57, Fish’s brother. They were charged with money laundering.

Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum, 58, of Brooklyn was accused of conspiring with others to acquire and trade human organs for use in transplantation. Rosenbaum, who was “purportedly” involved in real estate, was approached by a cooperating witness and an undercover FBI agent about buying a human kidney from a human organ broker, according to the complaint.

Rosenbaum said it would cost $150,000, with half payable up front, according to the complaint. Rosenbaum said some of the money would go to the donor and some to doctors in Israel, according to the complaint.

‘It’s Illegal’

“One of the reasons it’s so expensive is because you have to shmear (meaning pay various individuals for their assistance) all the time,” according to the complaint. “It’s illegal to buy. It’s illegal to sell.”

Prosecutors charged the men in a series of criminal complaints detailing the allegations. Ben Haim was accused of laundering $1.5 million through the undercover witness, who said he “was engaged in illegal businesses and schemes including bank fraud, trafficking in counterfeit goods and concealing assets and monies in connection with bankruptcy proceedings,” according to an FBI criminal complaint.

The cooperating witness is Solomon Dwek, a real estate developer in Monmouth County, New Jersey, who was charged May 11, 2006, with scheming to defraud PNC Bank out of $50 million, according to a person familiar with the matter and court records.

Prosecutors alleged that Dwek deposited two $25 million checks from another account of his, which had a zero balance. Dwek then wired $22.8 million out of PNC, falsely assuring bank officials that he would forward funds to cover the overdraft, according to prosecutors.

Dwek posted a $10 million bond, secured by $3 million in equity in the homes of his mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Dwek was never indicted, instead receiving 17 extensions from a judge to continue the period in which his case had to be presented to a federal grand jury.

Agents today brought the suspects to FBI headquarters in Newark for processing before their appearance later today in federal court a mile away. About a dozen of the suspects were transported this morning from the FBI building in a blue bus.

A press conference is scheduled for this afternoon.

Article printed in BLOOMBERG NEWS


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