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Operation Bid Rig III Update: James King pleads out September 24, 2009

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James King, a former Hudson County undersheriff and one of the Operation Bid Rig 3 defendants admitted today that he took bribes from an undercover government informant (Dwek).  He is now the fifth defendant to plead guilty in connection to July’s corruption sting.  Obviously, the defense attorneys are really fighting hard huh?  (sarcasm)

While running for the Jersey City Council, he took between $5,000 and $10,000 from Dwek.  In exchange, King promised that if elected, he would help secure zoning changes for Dwek who was posing as a developer that was building a luxury condominium project.

I see no indication that he implicated anyone else, so this seems like a rather uneventful plea.  Story is here.

Operation Bid Rig 3 Update: 2 more plea out September 18, 2009

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This case is moving really quick.  Today, Edward Cheatam an ex-Jersey City education and housing official admitted that he took $70,000 in bribes and introduced a government informant to an several  Democratic officials who  also took bribes. They include:  state Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith, former Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, former Jersey City council candidate Louis Manzo and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini.

He also said that he funneled $15,000 in illegal contributions to the campaign of Jersey City’s Democratic Mayor Jerramiah T. Healy in exchange for his and Beldini’s help securing approvals for a luxury condominium building.  While Healy has not been charged, I think the hammer is about to drop.  For his credit, Healy said that he donated any campaign contributions from the defendants to charity.  Beldini has pleaded not guilty, for now.

Also today, Denis Jaslow a Hudson County board of elections investigator.  admitted to accepting $15,500 for introducing the informant to Joseph Castagna, a Jersey City health officer, and Michael Manzo, a former candidate  for the city council.

At this point, I’ll be shocked if more than a small handful of these guys go to trial.  I would not be shocked if none of them do.

Story is here.

Operation Bid Rig 3 – 2 out of 44 plea guilty September 9, 2009

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That was quick huh? Two of the forty-four arrested as part of Operation Bid Rig Part Three have entered guilty pleas today.

In U.S. District Court today, Guy Catrillo admitted that he accepted bribes from a government witness posing as a developer (Dwek).
Catrillo was an aide to Jersey City’s planning and zoning boards and was a community relations specialist in Mayor Healy’s office.
Catrillo was accused of attempted extortion for taking $15,000 from the informant, Solomon Dwek, in exchange for promising to expedite development approvals.

Also today, former zoning board official Maher Khalil pleaded guilty to extortion conspiracy.  He also said that that three other people charged in the case took cash from the informant:  Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega, Edward Cheatam, a former city housing commissioner and board of education vice president and the treasurer of the Guttenberg board of education.  Although not actually named, that last person he described was Vincent Tabbachino who is also charged.

This is an odd case because even though there are 44 defendants, it is not as if all 44 worked together.  Thus, a plea by one may have no impact on the others.  I’m sure we will see some more arrests soon.

Story is here and here.

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.