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Navy and Defense Contractor Corruption And Fraud Scheme March 29, 2012

Posted by jefhenninger in Crimes, News.
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Civilian defense contractors and Navy employees are pleading guilty to corruption, and fraud.  Here is just another fraud scheme where contracts were won, by giving bribes to officials.

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Quick Ritacco Investigation Update May 31, 2010

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The Star Ledger has been pressing its sources on the Ritacco investigation and the information they have developed shows that the investigation is much broader than some would have thought.  It seems like authorities are looking into a number of  people and entities that had dealings with Federal Hill Risk Management.  That company is run by Frank Gartland and he has given a lot of money to both political parties.

In addition, Ritacco’s daughter, Taryn J. Ritacco Schwartz, once worked for Gartland & Co., which was based in South Amboy. She has been an investigator for the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office for the past nine years. Everyone has declined comment.

This is clearly a massive investigation which could lead to dozens of arrests.  The only questions now are who and when?

Story is here.

Owner of Broma Technologies Charged in Connection With Public Corruption Investigation May 25, 2010

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A two-count Information was filed charging Anthony Ma of Moreland Hills, Ohio, in connection with the Cuyahoga County public corruption investigation. Ma owns Broma Technologies located in Cleveland, Ohio.

The Information charges Ma with participating in two Hobbs Act Conspiracies. Ma is first charged with giving kickbacks to Kevin Payne, then Chief of Staff of the Engineer’s Office, and to one unnamed County Auditor’s Office employee, with Daniel Gallagher, a former Chief of Staff for the Engineer’s Office, acting as the intermediary. In return, Payne helped Broma obtain a Docuware contract. Ma is also charged with giving kickbacks to public officials, including Kelley and Payne, in return for their influence on a lucrative subcontract for the Geographic Information Systems project. Gallagher served as the intermediary on these kickbacks, as well. In total, Ma agreed to pay approximately $199,000 in kickbacks.

The following were charged previously in connection with the Cuyahoga County corruption investigation:

DEFENDANT

ROLE
DATE CHARGED
CASE STATUS
John Kevin Kelley Former Geographic Information Systems project manager, Cuyahoga County Engineer’s Office Former President, Parma City School District Board of Education, Principal, J. Kevin Kelley Consulting, LLC
6/12/2009
Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 7/1/2009
Kevin F. Payne Retired Chief of Staff, Engineer’s Office, Cuyahoga County 6/12/2009 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 7/1/2009
Daniel P. Gallagher Retired Chief of Staff, Engineer’s Office, Cuyahoga County Principal, The Eagle Group 6/12/2009 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 7/2/2009
Brian Schuman Former co-executive director, Alternatives Agency 6/12/2009 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 7/2/2009
Steven Wayne Pumper Chief Executive Officer, DAS Construction 7/8/2009 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 7/17/2009 $3,664.00 payment toward restitution 11/9/2009 $5,000.00 payment toward restitution 1/5/2010
Dennis Dooley Principal Office Assistant, Cuyahoga County Auditor’s Office 7/22/2009 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 9/9/2009
John J. Carroll Former Vice President of Facilities and Construction Services 8/6/09 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 9/9/2009
Nilesh R. Patel Former Vice President of East West Construction Company 8/6/09 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 9/9/2009
Anthony Sinagra Former principal of AC Sinagra & Associates, Former Mayor of Lakewood, Ohio Former member of The Ohio Senate. 8/13/09 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 8/31/2009
Santina Klimkowski Former elected member of the Maple Heights School Board of Education from 1981 to 2005 Former Department of Appraisal Specialist, Auditor’s Office 9/18/09 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 10/2/2009 $91,859.48 payment toward restitution 1/25/10 $57,100 Forfeiture Order 3/26/2010
Timothy Armstrong Attorney, Sole Practitioner 9/18/09 Guilty Plea 9/29/2009 $1.2 Million payment toward restitution 12/30/09 $373,545 payment toward restitution 1/29/10 Sentenced 2/3/10: 42 months imprisonment; restitution: $1,573,345 (paid)
Bruce Zaccagnini Partner, Belcuy Partners 9/18/09 Guilty Plea 10/2/09 $500,000 payment toward restitution 11/2/09 Sentenced 2/2/2010: 60 months imprisonment; restitution: $3,215,845
John Valentin Principal in Stone Design 11/20/09 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 12/16/2009
Dinesh Bafna President of Mont Granite 11/20/09 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 12/8/09
Thomas Greco Retired, Former Agent of MetroHealth Systems 11/23/09 Arraignment 11/24/09 Plead Not Guilty 11/24/09
$1.95 Million Proceeds from Louis Damiani’s criminal activity Civil Forfeiture 12/11/09 Forfeiture filed 12/11/09
Joseph Gallucci Former employee of Auditor’s Office 11/22/09 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 1/8/2010 $15,000 payment toward restitution 12/30/09 $1,055 payment toward restitution 2/3/2010
Nicholas A. Zavarella Zavarella Brothers Construction 2/24/10 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 3/10/10
Joseph P. O’Malley Former employee of Auditor’s Office as an independent contractor. Former employee of the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s Office 4/19/10 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 4/27/2010
Ferris Kleem Owner of Blaze Construction 4/22/10 Awaiting Sentencing Guilty Plea 5/7/2010

If convicted, the defendant’s sentence will be determined by the Court after review of factors unique to this case, including the defendant’s prior criminal record, if any, the defendant’s role in the offense and the characteristics of the violation. In all cases the sentence will not exceed the statutory maximum and in most cases it will be less than the maximum.

Operation Bid Rig 3 Update: Ex-Assemblyman Van Pelt arraigned January 5, 2010

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Daniel Van Pelt, a former state assemblyman and Ocean Township committeeman, appeared in federal court today to be arraigned on corruption charges.  I’m still on the fence as to whether or not he will go to trial on the one count indictment of attempted extortion under color of official right.

With no disrespect to his attorney, Robert Fuggi, information I had was that he was going to get another attorney.  Either that information was bad, he has given up on that route or that will happen later.  His attorney is rather vocal compared with the other OBR3 defense attorneys; most of which have said little to nothing.  Of course, you don’t try your case in the media so whose to say if it makes sense to speak to the media in the first place.

The problem with Van Pelt’s case is that there are several facts beyond change.  First, Van Pelt was a powerful politician in Southern Ocean County. Second, he met with Dwek several times.  Third, they discussed Dwek’s plans to build in Waretown.  So, any defense must accept these facts.

In addition, you have the incredible success rate of the US Attorney’s Office and the fact that NJ residents hate politicians.  I also don’t know if Al Santoro will testify against him.  It seems like he could and there seems to be some quid pro quo between Santoro and Van Pelt. 

Keep an eye out for a new indictment against Van Pelt in a few months.  If one comes down, that should make it clear that the case is going to trial.

Story is here.

Jersey City Sewer Permit Supervisor Guilty of Attempted Extortion August 9, 2009

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Angela Bellizzi, the supervisor of permits and connection fees for the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority pleaded guilty this week to attempted extortion.  On the surface, this seems like a pretty good deal considering the public’s attitude towards these crimes as well as the US Attorney’s Office win streak.  However, I do hope that an entrapment defense was seriously considered here.  

When a case like this comes in the door, one of the first things I want to know is how many people does this involve?  Is my client accused of taking payments from many people or just one person?  Is that one person a cooperating witness (CW)?  If it is just the CW, then an entrapment defense really needs to be examined.  There is a lot to explain here so that’ll require a separate blog post.

NEWARK—The supervisor of permits and connection fees for the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority pleaded guilty today to extorting corrupt cash payments from contractors, Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr. announced.

Angela Bellizzi, 53, of South River, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Susan D. Wigenton to a one-count criminal Information charging attempted extortion. Bellizzi is free on $75,000 bond pending her sentencing, which is scheduled for Nov. 12.

At her plea hearing, Bellizzi admitted accepting cash payments in exchange for her agreement to falsify and/or approve fraudulent sewer permit applications submitted by a government cooperating witness. The fraudulent permit applications for various properties made it appear that sewer connections would be for two-bedroom residences, as opposed to three-bedroom residences, which resulted in lower permit application fees.

Bellizzi admitted that she extorted corrupt payments in two ways: She agreed to falsify permit applications in return for payments, or instructed the contractor on how to falsify permit applications that would be approved by her in return for payments.

Bellizzi admitted that she told a cooperating witness who owned and/or renovated residential properties that, by fraudulently indicating on sewer connection application that it was for a two-bedroom versus three-bedroom residence, the cooperating witness was saving between $1,300 and $1,500.

Bellizzi admitted that on several occasions she took corrupt cash payments of between $200 and $500 from the cooperating witness for fraudulent applications. She also admitted that she told the cooperating witness that she normally charged other contractors $300 for similar fraudulently prepared applications.

According to a stipulation in Bellizzi’s plea agreement, the value of the benefit received by the cooperating witness and others who acted similarly with Belizzi exceeded $70,000 but was less than $120,000. She agreed that the corrupt contact occurred between at least January 2005 and June 2008. The investigation is continuing.

“This is just more of the same of what we’ve seen too often in Jersey City and elsewhere in New Jersey – public officials and employees in a position of authority abusing that authority to line their pockets,” Marra said. “It’s a disgrace and subverts even routine functions of government.”

“Today’s guilty plea was not connected to or influenced by the recent corruption takedown of July 23rd,” noted Weysan Dun, FBI Special Agent in Charge in Newark.

“This was a separate investigation conducted and prosecuted on its own merits. However, we take this opportunity to drive home the message that bribery and corruption should not be tolerated and we call on the citizens of New Jersey to take a stand as they have done recently. We thank the Special Investigative Unit of the Jersey City Police Department for their assistance in this investigation.”

The charge to which Bellizzi pleaded guilty carries a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, in determining an actual sentence, Judge Wigenton will consult the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, which provide appropriate sentencing ranges that take into account the severity and characteristics of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, if any, and other factors, including acceptance of responsibility.

Under the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines, Bellizzi faces a probable sentencing range of between 37 and 46 months in federal prison. The judge, however, has discretion and is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence, which could fall within or outside of that range.

New arrests in 2007 election fraud case shows need to lawyer up early August 4, 2009

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As I have said in posts about other news stories, large and complex investigations have a way of morphing as time goes by and other defendants flip on existing and unindicted co-defendants.  Those lucky enough to escape the initial arrests should not think that they are out of the woods although I am sure that most will convince themselves that they are. 

I have had great success when clients call me at the first sign of danger.  Of course, you cannot stop others from flipping on your client and thus, there may be little you can do to prevent an indictment in some cases.  However, I am a big proponent of starting trial prep right away as you can never have enough time to prepare for trial, gather information and minimize damage.  Hopefully, these three people already had attorneys and are not surprised by this week’s events.

Press release:

TRENTON – Attorney General Anne Milgram announced that three more people were indicted today for election fraud in connection with absentee ballots they collected and submitted as workers for the 2007 campaign of Teresa Ruiz for the New Jersey Senate in the 29th District. Another campaign worker for Ruiz, Antonio Santana, was previously indicted on March 23 on charges he fraudulently changed votes on absentee ballots during the election.

According to Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni, a state grand jury returned two indictments today charging three individuals in the ongoing investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

One indictment charges Gianine Narvaez, 36, of Belleville, a data processing technician for the Essex County Commissioner of Registration and Superintendent of Elections, with official misconduct (2nd degree), election fraud (2nd degree), absentee ballot fraud (3rd degree), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), and forgery (4th degree).

The second indictment charges Angel Colon, 46, of Newark, an employee of the City of Newark Office of Affirmative Action, and Colon’s fiancée, Sorinette Rosario, 31, of Belleville, an employee of the Newark Welfare Department, with election fraud (2nd degree), conspiracy to commit election fraud (2nd degree), absentee ballot fraud (3rd degree), conspiracy to commit absentee ballot fraud (3rd degree), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), and forgery (4th degree).

According to Director Gramiccioni, Narvaez, Colon and Rosario are charged with tampering with documentation for messenger ballots, which are absentee ballots intended for use by homebound voters. They are charged with fraudulently submitting such ballots as votes in the Nov. 6, 2007 general election.

“We charge that these campaign workers fraudulently submitted absentee ballots on behalf of residents who never received the ballots or had an opportunity to cast their votes,” said Attorney General Milgram. “Election fraud is a serious crime, particularly when voters are disenfranchised.”

Messenger ballots are for use only by those who are homebound due to illness, infirmity or disability. Such persons can complete an application designating a messenger who is a family member or a registered voter in the county. The messenger is thereby authorized to obtain an absentee ballot from the county board of elections, take it to the voter, and return a completed ballot to the county board.

Narvaez, Colon and Rosario allegedly solicited applications for messenger ballots from individuals not qualified to receive them and fraudulently designated themselves as the authorized messengers. They allegedly obtained messenger ballots from the county board of elections, and submitted them to the board of elections as votes on behalf of voters who, in fact, never received or voted the ballots.

“This alleged voter exploitation was brought to our office’s attention by the Essex County Superintendent of Elections,” said Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow. “Voting is a fundamental privilege that all American citizens have a right to exercise without any form of meddling. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office will not tolerate any attempt to manipulate elections of any kind.”

“We are continuing our investigation into allegations of fraud in the November 2007 general election in the 29th District,” said Director Gramiccioni. “The Division of Criminal Justice and Essex County Prosecutor’s Office are pursuing all leads concerning tampering with absentee ballots.”

Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine, while third-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Fourth-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The official misconduct charge against Narvaez carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison without parole. The mandatory minimum was established under a law signed by Governor Jon S. Corzine in March 2007 that significantly enhances the punishment of government officials who are convicted of abusing their office and violating the public trust.

The charges remain pending against, Antonio Santana, 58, of Newark. That indictment alleges that Santana changed the votes on three absentee ballots that he collected from members of one family in October 2007. The family members filled in the circles on the ballots in pencil to vote for the three independent candidates. They gave the sealed ballots to Santana, who allegedly changed the votes on each of the ballots to the three Democratic candidates.

Will Brian Stack get caught up in Operation Bid Rig III? August 2, 2009

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Yesterday, the Record reportedthat a donation of $4,000 from BH Property Management shows up on a 2007 campaign finance report for Union City First, a political action committee linked to Union City Mayor Brian Stack.  The company has been identified in a federal complaint as “an FBI undercover company” that was used to facilitate money laundering.  Of course, this doesn’t mean that every dollar the company gave was used or intended to be used to facilitate criminal activity. 

However, this story comes a day after the Star Ledger reportedthat Solomon Dwek, the cooperating witness who was at the heart of the 44 arrests of Operation Bid Rig III which ensnared three mayors, two state assemblymen and five rabbis.    Dwek reportedly gave $2,600 to Stack as well as $3,500 to U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez.  Menendez claimed to not know who Dwek was.

It seems like Stack has either been contacted by law enforcement or had some indication that he would be looked at as he has hired attorney Dennis McAlevy.  McAlevy has also represented former Hoboken Mayor Anthony J. Russo who pled guilty  to extorting $317,220 from accounting firm in exchange for contracts.  Russo was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

I’m sure that as OBR3 moves on, some of the 44 people will provide evidence against others who have not been arrested yet.  Whether or not Stack is one of them remains to be seen.

Operation Bid Rig Part 3 – update July 23, 2009

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Quick update on that massive corruption case that went down today, which we now know is the third phase of Operation Bid Rig.  All of the names have been released.  They are, according to the press release:

  • Leona Beldini, deputy mayor of Jersey City and a realtor. Beldini planned to become broker for his purported 750-unit condominium project on Garfield Avenue, where units would sell for $500,000 each. Beldini, who was treasurer of a Jersey City official’s re-election campaign (that official is identified only as Jersey City Official 4 in the Complaints), also accepted $20,000 in campaign donations, which she said would be divided between “donors” who would return the money to the campaign in increments of $2,600, the maximum individual donation allowed under law.
  • Jack M. Shaw, a Hudson County political consultant. As described in the Complaint, he took $10,000 from the cooperating witness for himself and proposed that the cooperating witness pay $10,000 in campaign contributions for the re-election campaign of Jersey City Official 4.
  • Edward Cheatam, the affirmative action officer for Hudson County, a commissioner with the Jersey City Housing Authority and, until May, vice president of the Jersey City Board of Education. Cheatam took $15,000 in cash bribes. (Khalil had introduced Cheatam to the cooperating witness; Cheatam then introduced Beldini and Shaw to the cooperating witness, all of whom then went on to extend introductions of the cooperating witness to many others.)
  • Mariano Vega, Jr., the Jersey City council president. He met several times with the cooperating witness and ultimately accepted three $10,000 payments, two of which Vega instructed an intermediary to have broken down and converted into individual contributions for his re-election campaign and the third which he received after his election victory.
  • Louis Manzo, a defeated candidate for Jersey City mayor, and his brother and political advisor, Ronald. Together, they accepted $27,500 in three cash payments intended for Louis Manzo’s campaign. The cooperating witness was told that giving money to Louis Manzo was “insurance” to secure his influence for the cooperating witness in the event the incumbent for mayor lost.
  • Lavern Webb-Washington, an unsuccessful candidate for the Jersey City council and a self-described housing activist. She accepted $15,000 in three cash installments of $5,000 for her political campaign.
  • Lori Serrano, an unsuccessful candidate for the Jersey City council and former chair of the Jersey City Housing Authority. Serrano accepted $10,000 in two cash payments of $5,000 for her political campaign.
  • James P. King, an unsuccessful candidate for Jersey City Council, former head of the Jersey City Parking Authority, former chairman of the Jersey City Incinerator Authority and a former Hudson County undersheriff. He accepted two payments of $5,000 each for his political campaign.
  • Michael J. Manzo (no relation to the other Manzos), an unsuccessful candidate for Jersey City Council, and a Jersey City arson investigator. He agreed to accept a $5,000 cash payment from the cooperating witness for his campaign.
  • Joseph Castagna, a health officer with the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services, and a close associate of Michael Manzo. Castagna took the $5,000 payment from the cooperating witness to pass to Michael Manzo.
  • Dennis Jaslow, an investigator for the Hudson County Board of Elections and formerly a state corrections officer. Jaslow accepted $2,500, but complained that he wanted $5,000.
  • Joseph Cardwell, a political consultant and a commissioner of the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority. He accepted two payments of $10,000 in cash to assist the cooperating witness with local government officials in Jersey City and other municipalities, and another $10,000, most of which was used for the purchase of fundraising event tickets.
  • Guy Catrillo, a Jersey City planning aide and member of the mayor’s “Action Bureau,” and an unsuccessful candidate for the city council. Catrillo took $10,000 in campaign cash and another $5,000.
  • L. Harvey Smith, state Assemblyman, a Jersey City mayoral candidate and former three-term councilman in Jersey City and a Hudson County undersheriff. Smith took two cash payments, one for $5,000, the other for $10,000, in exchange for approaching high-level contacts with the state Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection to clear the way for approvals of the cooperating witness’s project on Garfield Avenue in Jersey City and another project off Route 440 in Bayonne. Smith’s aide, Richard Greene, is charged in the same criminal Complaint, and is accused of taking the $5,000 payment from the cooperating witness and passing it to Smith.
  • Peter Cammarano III, previously a Hoboken councilman and now mayor, and a lawyer specializing in election law. While a candidate for mayor, then-councilman Cammarano and his close associate, Michael Schaffer, a commissioner on the North Hudson Utilities Authority, took three payments of $5,000 each with the promise that, in return, Cammarano would sponsor zoning changes and push through building plans for high-rise development in Hoboken by the cooperating witness. After the conclusion of their first meeting at a Hoboken diner, the cooperating witness stated, “Make sure you get my stuff expedited.” To which Cammarano replied: “I promise you … you’re gonna be treated like a friend.” Moments later, in the parking lot, Schaffer took the first $5,000 in cash. On July 16, Cammarano and Schaffer met the cooperating witness again at a Hoboken diner and accepted another $10,000, which Cammarano said was needed to pay campaign debts, bringing the total in bribes accepted by Cammarano and Schaffer to $25,000.
  • Dennis Elwell, mayor of Secaucus, and Ronald Manzo (Manzo is charged in this Complaint in addition to the one with his brother Louis). Elwell received a $10,000 cash bribe—through Manzo as the middleman—to assist the cooperating witness with plans to build a hotel in Secaucus. Manzo took $5,000 from the cooperating witness as a reward for bringing Elwell to him.
  • Anthony Suarez, mayor of Ridgefield Borough and an attorney, and co-defendant Vincent Tabbachino, owner of a tax preparation business in Guttenberg. Suarez accepted $10,000 from the cooperating witness through Tabbachino as a middleman, for Suarez’s promised assistance in getting approvals to develop properties in Ridgefield. Tabbachino said he kept the cash and, in turn, would write checks totaling $10,000 (one check for $2,500 was cashed) to a legal defense fund for Suarez related to an allegation made by a political opponent of Suarez. Tabbachino also laundered $100,000 in cash from the cooperating witness’s purported knock-off handbag business.
  • Daniel M. Van Pelt, state Assemblyman and administrator for Lumberton Township. Van Pelt accepted $10,000 from the cooperating witness for his influence as a state Assemblyman to help in getting the necessary permits for a purported project the cooperating witness was planning in Waretown, Ocean Township. Van Pelt particularly offered his influence in obtaining the necessary permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
  • Jeffrey Williamson, a Lakewood housing inspector, who was also a state Assembly candidate in 2007. He accepted a total of more than $16,000 in bribes in regular payments of $1,000 between about May 2007 and the last one on July 10, to provide lenient inspections on rental and other properties owned by the cooperating witness in Lakewood. Williamson also allowed the cooperating witness to illegally use a residence in Lakewood as a commercial office. Charles “Shaul” Amon aided in the Lakewood payoff scheme by introducing Williamson to the cooperating witness.
  • Charles “Shaul” Amon, previously worked for the cooperating witness managing properties in Lakewood. Amon aided in the Lakewood payoff scheme by introducing Williamson to the cooperating witness. Amon described how he had previously made payoffs to Williamson to go light on housing inspections.

The Money Laundering Defendants

Following are the individuals charged in the money laundering investigation and summaries of their alleged conduct as described in the criminal Complaints (All defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt):

  • Saul Kassin, the chief rabbi of Sharee Zion in Brooklyn, who laundered more than $200,000 with the cooperating witness between June 2007 and December 2008 by accepting “dirty” bank checks from the cooperating witness and exchanging them for clean checks from Kassin’s charitable organization, after taking a fee of 10 percent for each transaction.
  • Edmund Nahum, principal rabbi at Deal Synagogue in Deal, N.J., who laundered money both acting alone and with Kassin. Nahum laundered $185,000 between June 2007 and December 2008 by accepting dirty checks from the cooperating witness and exchanging them for clean checks from his own and Kassin’s charitable organizations, after taking a fee of 10 percent for each transaction. Both Kassin and Nahum also laundered money to create fictitious tax deductions by accepting checks made payable to their charitable organizations, which created the appearance of charitable donations. They then deducted their 10 percent fee for laundering the checks through their charitable organization accounts and returned to the originators checks drawn on one of their accounts for 90 percent of the value of the original checks. These return checks would be payable to a name designated by the originators.
  • Eli Ben Haim, principal rabbi of Congregation Ohel Yaacob in Deal, N.J., laundered $1.5 million with the cooperating witness between June 2007 and February 2009 by accepting dirty checks from the cooperating witness and exchanging them for cash, after taking a fee of approximately 10 percent for each transaction. His source for the cash was an Israeli who, for a fee of 1.5 percent, supplied the cash through intermediary cash houses run by defendants Weiss, Ehrental, and Cohen, who are described below. Ben Haim remarked that at one time he had laundered between $7 million and $8 million in one year, and earned $1 million laundering money in that year.

Cash House Operators for Haim Transactions:

  • Arye Weiss—operated cash house from his residence in Brooklyn for Haim money laundering transactions; charged with supplying $300,000 in cash.
  • Yeshayahu Ehrental—operated cash house from his office in Brooklyn for Haim money laundering transactions; charged with supplying $300,000 in cash.
  • Schmulik Cohen—operated cash house from his residence in Brooklyn for Haim money laundering transactions; charged with supplying $850,000 in cash.
  • Mordchai Fish—Rabbi of Congregation Sheves Achim in Brooklyn. Working with his brother Lavel Schwartz, also a rabbi in Brooklyn, Fish laundered approximately $585,000 with the cooperating witness by accepting dirty checks and exchanging them for cash, after taking a fee of 15 percent for each transaction. His source for the cash for some of the transactions was Levi Deutsch, who supplied the cash through an intermediary cash house run by Spira; for other transactions his source for the cash is unidentified but the cash was provided by cash couriers Gertner and Goldhirsh and cash houses run by Pollack and Weber. On two occasions over the course of his dealings with the Cooperating witness, Fish gave the Cooperating witness new chips for his cell phone to thwart any law enforcement attempt to wiretap their telephone calls.
  • Levi Deutsch—Israeli source/supplier of cash for a number of Fish money laundering transactions. For a fee of two or three percent, he supplied cash for the transactions through intermediary Spira’s cash house and is charged with supplying $200,000 in cash

Cash House Operators and Cash Couriers for Fish Transactions:

  • Binyomin Spira—operated a cash house from a bakery in Brooklyn in which he received cash from Levi Deutsch and supplied cash for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with supplying $200,000 in cash
  • Yolie Gertner—acted as a cash courier for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with moving $185,000 in cash
  • David Goldhirsh—acted as a cash courier for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with moving $100,000 in cash
  • Abe Pollack—operated cash house from his office in Brooklyn (which he shared with Naftoly Weber) for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with supplying $125,000 in cash
  • Naftoly Weber—operated cash house from his office in Brooklyn (which he shared with Abe Pollack) for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with supplying $125,000 in cash.

44 arrested in massive Federal corruption sweep July 23, 2009

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Today is a huge day for politics, New Jersey and criminal justice.  44 people have been arrested by Federal Authorities on charges of political corruption and money laundering.  This does not seem to be a small time case either.  All stories indicate that this is a high-volume case that may likely expand beyond the 44 people that have been charged.  In other words, it could be one of the most serious public corruption cases in New Jersey’s history.

The case started as a bank fraud case against a member of the Syrian Jewish community in Deal, N.J.   That man became a federal informant and posed as a crooked real estate developer offering cash bribes to obtain government approvals and in the end, it apparently ensnared a lot of people.  

Just some of the people arrested include:

— Peter Cammarano III, the newly elected mayor of Hoboken and an attorney, charged with
accepting $25,000 in cash bribes, including $10,000 last Thursday, from an undercover
cooperating witness.

— L. Harvey Smith, a New Jersey Assemblyman and recent mayoral candidate in Jersey City, charged along with an aide of taking $15,000 in bribes to help get approvals from high-level state agency officials for building projects.

— Daniel Van Pelt, a New Jersey Assemblyman, charged with accepting a $10,000 bribe.

— Dennis Elwell, mayor of Secaucus, charged with taking a $10,000 cash bribe.

— Anthony Suarez, mayor of Ridgefield and an attorney, charged with agreeing to accept a $10,000 corrupt cash payment for his legal defense fund.

— Louis Manzo, the recent unsuccessful challenger in the Jersey City mayoral election and former state Assemblyman, and his brother and political advisor Robert Manzo, both with taking $27,500 in corrupt cash payments for use in Louis Manzo’s campaign.

— Leona Beldini, the Jersey City deputy mayor and a campaign treasurer, charged with taking $20,000 in conduit campaign contributions and other self-dealing in her official capacity.

— Eliahu Ben Haim, of Long Branch, N.J., the principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal, N.J., charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.

— Saul Kassin, of Brooklyn, N.Y., the chief rabbi of a synagogue in Brooklyn, New York, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.

— Edmund Nahum, of Deal, N.J., the principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.

While not yet arrested, Federal authorities also searched the office and home of Joseph Doria who is the commissioner of the Department of Community Affairs.  Doria previously served a the Democratic mayor of Bayonne for nine years and represented Hudson County in the State Senate.

This case is going to create a lot of work for many lawyers in New Jersey.  These defendants have to make sure that these lawyers 1) know what they are doing, 2) have a plan and 3) have the time and ability to make it happen.  Of course, the clients just need one thing:  money as it is going to take a lot of it to dig them out from the whole that they are in.

A lawyer really needs to put life on hold (including weekends) at the moment and dig into this case right away.  You need to determine if your client has any real exposure here.  Then, you need to determine if any of these 44 people can flip on your guy.  If so, its a race to see who can be first in the door for the best deal.  If any of them have a lawyer that doesn’t know how to break down a case quickly but completely, they will either wait and thus get a bad deal or quickly sell out for a bad deal. 

I suggest that as many of the lawyers on this case get together so that everyone is on the same page.  I want to know who is saying what about my client.  I also would want to look into entrapment issues and wiretaps and other recordings. 

Should be very interesting to watch this play out.

Numerous stories from the Star Ledger are here.

FBI investigating fraud at NJ schools December 23, 2008

Posted by jefhenningeresq in News.
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The FBI has opened an investigation of an unknown number of New Jersey schools after David Drill, the former president of Circle Systems Groups, a sports gear company in Pennsylvania, admitted engaging in fraud.  He would submit phony quotes and give gifts to purchasing agents with the knowledge of athletic directors, equipment managers, trainers and coaches.  He is cooperating in the investigation. 

Although there is no indication of what schools are involved, the company appears (based on my contracts) to have had contract with many New Jersey schools including Asbury Park, Edison, Perth Amboy, Hudson Catholic, Hawthorne, East Brunswick, Rutherford, Hammonton among others.

This may become a huge story that can ensnare many people.  Hopefully, anyone that gets a call or letter from the FBI calls a good attorney before doing anything.  My guess it, most won’t and they will wind up giving a statement that will ensure that the will lose their job, have a criminal record and possibly go to prison. 

Click here for the story.