Friday, September 7, 2007
Shades of Abscam, albeit on the much more local scale. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey announced that ten elected officials and the chief of staff to the president of the Newark City Council were arrested for taking bribes from an insurance brokerage company that was an FBI front. According to the press release (here), the elected officials are "five members of the same local Atlantic County school board, two state Assemblymen from Passaic and Essex Counties, the mayor of Passaic and one current and one former Passaic city council member . . . ." Considering the disastrous consequences of being accused of accepting bribes, the amounts involved are fairly small, from $1,500 to $17,500, hardly enough to risk one's entire career. According to the federal prosecutors:
Pleasantville School Board members allegedly took thousands of dollars in bribes from the cooperating witnesses. The circle of corruption widened when certain Pleasantville school board members referred the cooperating witnesses to public officials in northern New Jersey who also took bribes and, in turn, put the cooperating witnesses in touch with still other corrupt public officials, according to the Complaints. The investigation included hundreds of tape-recorded and/or videotaped encounters, during which the officials charged in the complaints openly expressed their desire to enrich themselves using their public positions and influence. The defendants accepted corrupt payments ranging from $1,500 to $17,500 at any one time. In most cases, the defendants sought to establish and perpetuate a corrupt relationship with the cooperating witnesses to continue receiving bribes.