PHOTOS: ‘Bid Rig’ Corruption Bust Nets 44 Arrests in NY & NJ

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fbib.jpgThe following is a WCBSTV report:

(Click HERE for photos) FBI agents swept across northern New Jersey on Thursday morning, making arrests in one of the largest and most high-profile corruption probes in state history, a 10-year investigation known as “Bid Rig.”

The mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus and Ridgefield, the Jersey City deputy mayor and council president, two state assemblymen, numerous other public officials and political figures and five rabbis from New York and New Jersey were among 44 suspects nabbed in a two-track federal investigation of public corruption and a high-volume, international money laundering conspiracy, Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr., announced.

“New Jersey’s corruption problem is one of the worst, if not the worst, in the nation,” FBI Special Agent Ed Kahrer said during an afternoon news conference.

Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, and Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez are under arrest, along with Ocean Co. Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt, Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Baldini, Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith and Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt.

Investigators say they have hundreds of hours of video and audio recordings in which the money laundering or bribe-taking was occurring.

According to the complaint, Cammarano, 32, is accused of accepting $25,000 in cash bribes, including $10,000 last Thursday, from an undercover witness. Elwell, 64, is also charged with taking a $10,000 cash bribe, and Suarez, 42, is accused of agreeing to accept a $10,000 corrupt cash payment for his legal defense fund.

Joseph Hayden, an attorney representing Cammarano, said his client “is innocent of these charges. He intends to fight them with all his strength until he proves his innocence.”

Gov. Jon Corzine reacted to the probe Thursday morning by saying, “any corruption is unacceptable — anywhere, anytime, by anybody. The scale of corruption we’re seeing as this unfolds is simply outrageous and cannot be tolerated.”

On Thursday afternoon, New Jersey’s Community Affairs Commissioner, Joseph Doria, resigned in light of the investigation. FBI agents seized documents from Doria’s home and office, but federal officials would not say whether the former Democratic state senator from Bayonne would face criminal charges.

Smith, the Jersey City Council President, and several other current and former Jersey City public officials also are accused of accepting money to help the fake developer gain permits and approvals.

Beldini, 74, is charged with conspiracy to commit extortion by taking $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions. Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy said Thursday the charges were “a little shocking.”

“I have full faith in Leona,” Healy said. “She’s a good friend of mine — was and will be.”

Arrests that are part of the money-laundering portion of the investigation also include five rabbis in New York and New Jersey.

Mike Winnick was praying inside the Deal Synagogue when it was raided. Winnick says FBI agents removed several boxes from the Deal Yeshiva.

“Everyone was looking at each other, like, “What’s going on here?’ ” he said.

Winnick said four FBI agents escorted a rabbi from the synagogue into his office and blocked the doorway.

Winnick said he left shortly afterward.

One criminal complaint charges a Brooklyn man, with conspiring to broker the sale of a human kidney for a transplant, at a cost of $160,000 to the transplant recipient. According to the complaint, the suspect said he had been brokering the sale of kidneys for 10 years.

The arrests are the result of a 10-year investigation called “Bid Rig” that apparently began with an investigation of money transfers by members of the Syrian enclaves in Deal, New Jersey and Brooklyn, including rabbis and religious leaders of the wealthy communities.

The investigation widened to include official corruption in July 2007 when the cooperating witness approached public officials in Hudson County posing as a developer seeking to build in the Jersey City area.

Hoboken’s waterfront has proven to be an especially lucrative piece of real estate across from midtown Manhattan. Developers have put up dozens of buildings in the last 15 years in the mile-square city. It had a prime view on July 4 of fireworks over the Hudson River.

Corruption has permeated New Jersey politics for years. Former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie, who is currently running on the Republican ticket for governor, takes credit for 130 convictions of elected and appointed officials on corruption charges.

CBS 2 HD spoke with Former Asst. U.S. Attorney Randy Mastro on Thursday about the details of the massive FBI probe.

“It reminds me of that old Casablanca line, you know, I’m shocked, shocked to see there’s corruption in New Jersey politics. But this one tops them all, with body parts and rabbis and so many towns involved. It’s an extraordinary story,” said Mastro.

When asked about the arrests of big-name government officials, Mastro said this:

“I think this is the logical extension of what the major focus of the US Attorney’s office was when Chris Christie was the US Attorney. He focused on public corruption and exposing it in New Jersey. Apparently there was some low-hanging fruit and now we see an extension of that good work through the FBI and that office in a wider probe.

“Public corruption, officials taking bribes — that’s a fundamental violation of the public trust that prosecutors and courts take very seriously so I think this is a case that could have very serious consequences for the political futures, and the liberty, of those charged.”

13 COMMENTS

  1. Just for the record, has anyone noticed that this one didn’t call every Frum Jew arrested ‘Rabbi?’

    You know, in the Alter Heim it used to be that in order to survive it was necessary to break the law. Everyone knew that governments were anti-semetic, and just for simple survival you had to be able to bribe the right people, etc.

    Somehow this mentality was transferred to America, and this is the result? Why can’t the Jewish olam realize that this government is a malchus shel chesed, and that by breaking the law, no matter how big or small, we’re just making it harder for them to help us? It used to be that we’d hear stories about how everyone knew that they could trust Frum Jews for business deals, etc. because they knew that their belief in Hashem was so strong, they’d never do anything dishonest. Why can’t we keep that up now? Why is it that I have to fall on “Integrity First” as my reason for not speeding when talking to my friends? Why does the idea of “it’s against the law” not convince people?

    I know we should be Dan L’kaf Z’chus, and we most definitely must not prejudge. But R’ Yisroel Salanter used to say the eleventh commandment is don’t be a fool. It’s hard to believe that this whole thing was a frame-up, and even if it was, I know people who don’t think twice about breaking the law, as long as nobody’s watching. Except Hashem, of course.

  2. This is a MAJOR story all over the USA & the WORLD. I hope everyone involved is happy with the MAJOR Chilul HaShem involved in this story.

    There is talk about who the canary was & if he was, der Aybishter zul em git upheetin!!!

  3. Jersey has corruption but the center is Chicago and the state of Illonis now much of this corruptions resides in dc and one of the leaders live in the white house

  4. What’s done is done. Some of these Rabbis are selfless working on behalf of the community. They didnkt get mixed up in this for some personal taavah.they distribute large amounts of zedaka funds and do only good for the community. They may in fact be proven innocent. This is what we pray for.

  5. If they get proven innocent, great. But regardless, the motive doesn’t change much in the moral value of the act–it just makes them more sympathetic characters. Tell me, if I really need a Sefer Torah for a shul, do you think it’s less wrong to steal one than it is to steal anything else, because I want it for a mitzva?

    Of course not. We would say the opposite, and find the idea of stealing a Torah particularly abhorrent and, of course, ironically terrifying. So nu?

  6. “Among the 44 people arrested were the mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield and Secaucus, Jersey City’s deputy mayor, and two state assemblymen. A member of the governor’s cabinet resigned after agents searched his home, though he was not arrested. All but one of the officeholders are Democrats.”

    The above is a quote from the (normally anti-Israel) AP news article about the incident. Let’s just hope that maybe a pair of White House democrats are also involved and brought down.

  7. the only thing we can do today is make more efforts to make a kidush hashem to fill the void of this terrible chillul hashem.
    talking about it or who is right or wrong, will not bring moshaich. lets rise to the challenge & be above it & make an extra effort to be mekadesh shem shamaim

  8. ITZCHOK: you have, unfortunately, missed the point. This case has been going on for more than two years. The level of Chillul Hashem and damage done to those in Eretz Yisroel in desperate need of our help cannot even be calculated at this time. In light of the fact that we are in the tekufah of the Nine Days, we should be careful about pointing fingers.

  9. This is a terible Chilul Hashem! The fact that it happened during the 9 days, a time when many tragedies befell the Jewish people throughout our history, tells us that even though we are living in a free country, the country that has given us the greatest religious freedom, we have to be very careful because we are Yidden and the eyes of the world are always upon us. We must comply with all laws as per Dina Demachusa Dina!

    We must look at our deeds and ask why did this happen now, during the 9 days. We must do Teshuva for Loshen Harah, Sinas Chinum and other such Avarot.

    Unlike other countries we have freedom of speak hear and can say whatever we want about the President etc. But, ITZCHOK and other people bringing President Obama into this have to realize that this is a public webpage written in English and it is visible and accessible to the entire world. If you have a legitimist complaint about the President or you want to give your opinion about an issue with which he is involved then you can say whatever you want but don’t make baseless allegations about the President being corrupt etc. in a public forum. You can say what you want in private, in your shul, home etc. but not online where anyone can see it. We never know when we will need the President’s help regarding Israel, Iran etc.