Monday, February 28, 2005

Corruption Prosecutions in New Jersey

The U.S. Attorney's Office in New Jersey announced last week the arrests of a number of local public officials in Monmouth County (home of Asbury Park for the Bruce fans in the crowd), including the mayors of Keyport, Hazlet, and West Long Branch, on corruption charges.  According to a press release by the USAO discusses a contractor who cooperated with the government and who "[d]uring many tape-recorded and videotaped conversations, cash in amounts of between $1,000 and $9,000 - and in one case a $5,000 home driveway repaving - was exchanged with the public officials, some of whom assured the cooperating witness that they would continue to send work his way as long as the money kept coming, according to the Complaints. In one case, a Monmouth County official took cash in exchange for assisting what he believed to be a money laundering operation."  The defendants were charged in criminal complaints with Hobbs Act violations, although it is likely that the government will add additional charges (including honest services fraud and Section 666 violations) in subsequent indictments. Corruption in New Jersey?  The press release notes that the "arrests are an outgrowth of an earlier investigation, which led to the convictions of other Monmouth County public officials, including former Asbury Park Mayor Butch Saunders and Saunders' advisor Rayfield James, former Ocean Township Mayor and Asbury Park City Manager Terrence Weldon, former Asbury Park Councilman James Condos, and former executive director of the Asbury Park Housing Authority, the late Kenneth Nixon." (ph)

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UPDATE: An article in the Asbury Park Press (Feb. 28) discusses the claim by some of the defendants charged with in the Monmouth County corruption case that they were entrapped by the FBI into accepting the cash payments (story here).  Think back to the Abscam investigation in the late 1970s for a good example of how that defense does not work very well when public officials take cash.

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