New Jersey’s year of corruption and scandal
Sunday, January 02, 2005
By JONATHAN SCHUPPE AND JOHN P. MARTIN
Some filed fake tax forms, formed bogus companies and sold phony driver's
licenses. Others steered government contracts to friends and family, took bribes from gambling rings and shook down drug dealers.
A few collected unemployment insurance while working public jobs, embezzled
from federal housing subsidies and traded votes for cash. They were all caught up in misdeeds ranging from criminal offenses
to petty ethical lapses. In New Jersey, 2004 was remarkable for how much time and how many resources were spent chasing dishonest
Assembling this list of corruption-related events - raids, indictments,
sentencings, resignations, etc. - reveals an average of one corrupt act playing out on the public stage every three days.
Jan. 6 Lourdes Adan-Abreu, wife of indicted Hudson County businessman
Rene Abreu, pleads guilty to conspiring to defraud the Internal Revenue Service. She is one of 10 charged in a long-running
federal corruption case out of West New York.
Jan. 6 A detective who oversaw equipment purchases is charged
with stealing from the East Orange Police Department by using shell companies to supply items at grossly inflated prices.
Detective Norman Price, his wife, Natasha McCrae, and a friend, Vaughn Miller, allegedly pocketed $106,000 of $198,000 the
department spent on equipment.
Jan. 9 Former Essex County Executive James Treffinger begins
serving a 13-month term at the Federal Prison Camp Schuylkill in Minersville, Pa. Treffinger, also a Republican candidate
for U.S. Senate, admitted using county funds to pay campaign workers and trying to obstruct a federal probe into his campaign
finances. With good behavior, he was home by Christmas.
Jan. 12 The former mayor of a small Burlington County town
admits embezzling more than $339,000 from public accounts to pay for golf outings, parties, meals and other personal expenses.
Ronald Corn tells a Superior Court judge he and his township finance director steered money from Hainesport's municipal projects
into a secret bank account. The co-conspirator, Kristine Wisnewski, 32, previously pleaded guilty. Both agreed to leave office
and to pay restitution.
Jan. 16 An employee of the Motor Vehicle Commission pleads
guilty to conspiring to unlawfully produce driver's licenses, admitting she received between $100 and $200 per bogus license.
Sheilina D. Moore is among at least one dozen government employees at MVC offices in Mount Holly and Springfield who admit
to federal charges related to separate investigations.
Jan. 23 Corrections officers Vincenzo A. Perricone and James
H. Dowd are indicted on charges of bribery, official misconduct and theft for allegedly smuggling contraband to prisoners
in the Burlington County Jail in exchange for cash payments.
Feb. 2 A state grand jury indicts John D'Agostino, president
of Newark-based Haynes Security Inc., for bribery, theft and conspiracy for allegedly hiring criminals to guard Newark Liberty
International Airport and other sites.
Feb. 3 The former Mayor of Asbury Park, Kenneth "Butch" Saunders,
pleads guilty to filing false tax returns for 1997, 1999 and 2000. The plea comes six weeks after a federal jury convicts
Saunders and an aide of conspiring to bribe a council member for her vote on the town's billion-dollar redevelopment plan.
Feb. 10 The state ethics commission fines Attorney General
Peter Harvey $1,500 for accepting free ringside seats from boxing promoters for his wife and two other guests. Harvey is the
first attorney general sanctioned by the Executive Commission on Ethical Standards since it was created 31 years ago. He also
is the first Cabinet official it has fined since 1997.
Feb. 18 A Gloucester County judge finds West Deptford Democratic
campaign treasurer Daniel Wilson guilty of concealing $100,000 in campaign contributions from JCA Associates, a Moorestown
engineering firm that earned millions in town contracts. Three JCA executives had pleaded guilty to concealing the contributions.
Feb. 18 Former New Hanover Township Administrator James J.
Nash is sentenced to three months in prison for participating in a scheme to steer a federally funded Board of Education contract
to a relative of the town's former mayor.
March 2 FBI agents raid the headquarters of the Democratic
State Committee seeking campaign finance records involving David D'Amiano, a Carteret businessman and Democratic Party fund-raiser.
Agents also seek records related to D'Amiano from offices within the administration of Gov. James E. McGreevey.
March 3 Wisnewski, the former Hainesport finance officer, is
sentenced to three years in prison.
March 10 The state Division of Criminal Justice charges state
worker Yvette Wright with illegally collecting unemployment insurance benefits after an investigation determines she collected
benefits while working as a clerk for the state.
March 11 Harry G. Parkin, former chief of staff of the Mercer
County Executive's Office, is indicted on charges he used his office to help a recycling company win county contracts. Federal
prosecutors say Parkin had a secret financial stake in the company.
March 17 State Athletic Control Board Chairman Gerard Gormley
agrees with the state ethics commission to resign and pay $14,000 in fines to settle charges he improperly doled out 227 free
passes to professional boxing matches over the previous two years.
March 19 Marc Rossi, an insurance adjuster who once worked
as an investigator for the Mercer County Prosecutor's Office, is sentenced to eight years in prison for leading an arson-forprofit
ring that netted more than $500,000. Rossi ran the scheme while he owned Rossi Adjustment Services, a Trentonbased insurance
claims consulting firm.
March 19 FBI agents investigating D'Amiano interview McGreevey
for more than two hours. The interview remains a secret for almost five months.
March 22 The former executive director of the Delaware River
& Bay Authority pleads guilty to federal fraud charges. Michael E. Harkins admits billing tens of thousands of dollars
in personal expenses - from private jets to limo rides - to the authority and then trying to cover up the expenses.
March 25 The FBI arrests East Orange City Council Chairman
Zachary Turner and a friend, Barry Turner, on charges they conspired to solicit bribes. The councilman allegedly demanded
$20,000 from one contractor seeking to resolve a property dispute with the city.
April 2 Daniel Wilson, the former treasurer of the West Deptford
municipal election campaign committee, is ordered to resign and is banned from all future government employment during sentencing.
Wilson also is sentenced to four years of probation and must pay a $2,500 fine.
April 8 Ronald Corn, the former Hainesport mayor, is sentenced
to five years in prison for diverting $339,000 to a secret "mayor's account."
April 15 In opening arguments at the federal fraud and corruption
trial of Hudson developer Rene Abreu, a federal prosecutor says the evidence includes a secret recording in which the developer
and others discuss extortion payoffs from a gambling racket to Assembly Speaker Albio Sires after Sires became May or of West
New York. Sires denies any wrongdoing.
April 19 A Trenton contractor pleads guilty to conspiring to
defraud the Mercer County Improvement Authority. Michael Maurio admits he planned with owners of a demolition company to add
$100,000 to the bill for projects they completed for the authority. Maurio's take was $26,000.
April 23 A U.S. customs officer admits taking $4,000 in bribes
from a federal immigration inspector who smuggled more than 100 Indian nationals into the country at Newark Airport. Terence
Walden also agrees to testify against the inspector, Otis Rackley, if Rackley goes to trial.
April 30 JCA Associates, a politically connected South Jersey
engineering firm that was implicated in a scheme to hide illegal campaign contributions, is barred from working on the state's
school construction program for five years. The Schools Construction Corp. moved to prohibit the Moorestown company and five
officers from participating in the $8.6 billion school construction program. The company already had been awarded five contracts
worth $8.9 million.
May 3 Reputed Gambino crime-family associate James DiModica
pleads guilty to charges he demanded cash payments from a Monmouth County construction firm so the company could do business
on a North Jersey school construction project.
May 7 Two state employees are charged with illegally collecting
thousands of dollars in unemployment insurance benefits. Patricia Mitchell, who worked at Greystone Psychiatric Hospital in
Morris County, is accused of failing to report earnings to the Department of Labor while receiving $7,072 in unemployment
benefits. Lashawn Peterson, while working at the New Jersey Department of Corrections as a communications operator, allegedly
failed to report to his job while collecting $7,360 in benefits.
May 24 Frank D'Agosta, a veteran Jersey City police detective,
gets a 13-month prison term for taking kickbacks from a gambling ring in Hudson County.
June 4 Lesly Devereaux, VP of the state commerce commission,
leaves office while under investigation for hiring family members as consultants. Devereaux also served as chief of staff
to Commerce Secretary William Watley, pastor of St. James AME Church in Newark.
June 8 The president and two executives of the JCA Associates
engineering firm plead guilty to filing fraudulent tax returns to conceal illegal campaign contributions.
June 8 Another MVC employee, Lori Awan, admits conspiring to
unlawfully produce driver's licenses. Awan worked in Springfield.
June 14Leonard Farinola, a heating and air-conditioning installer
who became an FBI cooperating witness, gets three months in prison for bribing officials in North Bergen Township. Farinola
faced more than two years in jail, but won leniency after secretly recording 60 conversations with public officials that helped
put three in jail.
June 15 State authorities raid two Newark hotels and the home
of an Essex County sheriff's officer as part of an investigation into Joseph G. Marini's unlicensed security firm. The probe
of All Phase is part of a wider inquiry into the business practices of Newark-area security companies and their connections
to local police agencies.
June 21 The former acting chief financial officer and director
of finance for Irvington is indicted on charges of filing false federal income tax returns for 1995 through 1998. The case
against Earl Haugabrook grew out of the same investigation that led to the conviction of former mayor Sara Bost.
June 22 Hudson County developer Joseph Barry pleads guilty
to paying $114,900 to former County Executive Robert Janiszewski. Prosecutors call it a payoff, but Barry calls it a "reward"
for Janiszewski's help getting government funding for Barry's signature project, the Shipyard in Hoboken.
June 23 The former police chief of West New York testifies
he paid $2,000 a week in gambling kickbacks to businessman Abreu, a key aide of Assembly Speaker Albio Sires in West New York.
The chief, Alexander Oriente, recalls seeing Abreu scrawl words on a napkin to ask about kickbacks police had been collecting
from prostitution and illegal gambling rackets. Oriente himself served a four-year prison term for racketeering.
June 24 State criminal investigators seize computer hard drives
and documents from the commerce commission as part of a widening corruption probe involving Devereaux, the agency's former
vice president. The raid followed a series of disclosures about Devereaux's activities, including her close involvement with
the hiring of her sister as a consultant despite claiming she had recused herself. Records show that Devereaux joined her
sister in cashing commission checks totaling $3,500.
June 24 Authorities charge a state employee with collecting
more than $18,000 in unemployment insurance benefits. An indictment alleges John M. Andre collected benefits while working
for the Department of Human Services.
June 24 A former Gloucester County probation officer, Rene
Bradley-Williams, and her son are charged by state authorities with issuing more that $500,000 in bad checks to purchase luxury
automobiles and threatening to kill a witness questioned by law enforcement investigators.
June 29 Hudson County Freeholder William C. Braker, a veteran
police officer, admits he extorted $3,000 from a psychiatrist who hoped to keep counseling contracts for the county prisons.
Prosecutors claimed Braker also demanded Viagra from the doctor.
June 30 Otis Rackley, the immigration inspector, admits smuggling
scores of undocumented immigrants into the country at Newark Airport, some just weeks after the 9/11 attacks. Rackley took
$5,000 in cash to escort the travelers, mostly Indian nationals, past immigration checkpoints. In two years, he and conspirators
raked in as much as $1 million.
July 6 David D'Amiano is charged with extorting $40,000 in
cash and political donations. Prosecutors say he arranged meetings for a Middlesex farmer with county officials who wanted
to condemn the farmer's 74-acre tract and with "a high-ranking state official" whom the farmer hoped might get him a better
deal. Investigators say the schemers used "Machiavelli" as a code word to signal complicity. Gov. McGreevey later acknowledges
he was the state official and that he said the code word during a conversation, but said it was coincidence and denied any
July 8 A federal judge sends former Asbury Park mayor "Butch"
Saunders prison for 33 months for conspiring to bribe a council member.
July 13 Charles Kushner, developer, philanthropist and prominent
donor for state Democrats and McGreevey, is charged with witness intimidation and other counts. The indictment says Kushner
lured a cooperating FBI witness - his sister's husband - into a videotaped tryst with a prostitute, then later sent a tape
of the encounter to his sister. The charges come 15 months after federal investigators opened an inquiry into Kushner's financial
affairs and political contributions.
July 14 Stung by ethics allegations and with his agency under
criminal investigation, state Commerce Secretary William Watley resigns. The announcement comes as investigators return to
the Commerce and Economic Growth Commission to seize more hard drives as part of a widening corruption probe.
July 16 One former corrections officer is sentenced to prison
and another is given probation for smuggling contraband to prisoners in the Burlington County Jail. James H. Dowd is ordered
to serve three years in state prison and ordered to pay $700 restitution. Vincenzo A. Perricone is sentenced to two years
probation and ordered to pay $200. Both are banned from any public employment.
July 16 An employee of the U.S. Social Security Administration
Office in Trenton pleads guilty to participating in a scheme to sell genuine Social Security cards to illegal immigrants.
Rebecca Rivera Asencio admits conspiring with two middlemen to sell cards for $1,500 or more.
July 19 Paul Byrne, childhood pal and reputed bagman for former
Hudson County Executive Robert Janiszewski, admits passing bribes to Janiszewski from an accountant with county contracts.
His plea ends a two-year string of graft investigations in the county that also toppled the once-powerful executive, two elected
freeholders and two contractors.
July 29 A former assistant administrator with the Perth Amboy
Housing Authority is arrested and charged with embezzling more than $400,000 in federal housing subsidies. Miladys Gomez was
responsible for printing and issuing federal housing subsidy checks to landlords on behalf of Section 8 aid recipients.
July 30 A former clerical worker is sentenced to seven years
in state prison for stealing more than $81,000 from the Division of Taxation. Michael A. Johnson also is permanently barred
from holding future public employment.
Aug. 4 A federal jury convicts Rene Abreu of mortgage fraud
but deadlocks on whether he used political ties to extort thousands of dollars from illegal gambling operators.
Aug. 12 McGreevey resigns after acknowledging an extramarital
homosexual affair. Aides say the man was Golan Cipel, who had once served McGreevey as a homeland security adviser.
Aug. 13 Cipel accuses the governor of sexual harassment.
Aug. 15 Cipel's lawyer insists his client is a heterosexual
who was frightened and repulsed by McGreevey's repeated sexual advances.
Aug. 18 Charles Kushner, the developer who helped finance McGreevey's
rise to office, pleads guilty to tax fraud, making illegal campaign contributions and intimidating a witness. Under terms
of his deal with federal prosecutors, Kushner faces between 18 and 24 months in prison.
Aug. 20 McGreevey sits for a voluntary interview by the FBI
as part of the agency's investigation into his complaint he was being blackmailed by Cipel. The former aide's threat to go
public with the affair led to McGreevey's announcement he would resign.
Aug. 23 Authorities publicly acknowledge their investigation
into allegations that rogue cops in Newark have been shaking down drug dealers and prostitutes, reselling confiscated drugs
and selling guns. Officials say the joint state/city investigation has been ongoing since the spring.
Aug. 25 State authorities charge a United States Postal Service
employee with illegally collecting more than $18,000 in unemployment insurance benefits. An indictment alleges Renee Williams
filed claims for UI benefits despite working at the postal service.
Aug. 30 Cipel says he won't sue McGreevey for sexual harassment,
ending the threat that forced the governor to abruptly quit.
Sept. 8 Englewood's municipal court judge, police chief and
a ranking police officer are indicted for allegedly conspiring to create false public records so a county prison inmate could
be improperly released from custody to attend a funeral. A state grand jury indictment charges Judge Joseph M. Clark, Chief
David Bowman and Sgt. Emma Jackson with tampering with public records or information and falsifying or tampering with records.
Sept. 9 Linda Love, an examination technician at the Driver
Testing Center in Mount Holly, admits selling fraudulent licenses. She says she earned $300 per license and processed an average
of five a week for three years, netting her almost $225,000.
Sept. 15 State police arrest a worker at the Newark motor vehicle
office for helping an illegal immigrant get identification papers. Monica Hancock is charged with conspiracy, official misconduct
and tampering with public records. The bust comes less than two years after state officials cracked down on corruption at
the office by firing all 10 workers and replacing them with new employees.
Sept. 15 D'Amiano admits extorting $40,000 in cash and political
donations from the Middlesex County farmer and said he prompted the governor to utter the now-infamous code word "Machiavelli"
as part of a political payoff scheme.
Sept. 24 Newark police officer Tyrone Dudley pleads guilty
to charges he shook down drug dealers. The plea is part of a widening state investigation targeting corruption and other illegal
activities by Newark police officers. As part of the guilty plea, Dudley forfeits his public position as a police officer
and agrees to cooperate with the investigation.
Sept. 24 The former executive director of the Mercer County
Improvement Authority pleads guilty to kickback and bribery schemes. Among other things, James R. Lambert Sr. admits conspiring
to pay an unnamed public official $150,000 for his vote on public contracts.
Sept. 29 Authorities charge Newark police officer Brandy Johnson
with selling cocaine out of her Newark home.
Sept. 29 Former Hoboken mayor Anthony Russo admits in federal
court that he extorted thousands of dollars in kickbacks from an accounting firm working for the city. Under federal sentencing
guidelines, Russo faces between 24 and 30 months in prison, but his attorney said he will argue for a lighter sentence because
Russo is battling lung, brain and adrenal cancer.
Oct. 1 Authorities charge two more Newark police officers,
Darius Smith and Lawrence Furlow, with shaking down and stealing cash from drug dealers and planting drugs on innocent victims
to cover their actions.
Oct. 6 In the wake of corruption charges against several officers,
the Newark Police Department issues a call for citizens to report graft by calling a toll-free hotline. Officials are inundated
Oct. 6 A federal judge orders former Hudson County Executive
Robert Janiszewski, the onetime Democratic Party boss turned wire-wearing FBI informant, to report for sentencing on Jan.
5. Two years have passed since Janiszewski pleaded guilty to extortion charges and admitted pocketing hundreds of thousands
of dollars in bribes.
Oct. 21 Prominent developer Joseph Barry is sentenced to 25
months in prison for passing $115,000 in payoffs to Janiszewski. Under questioning from the judge, Barry says he didn't plan
to bribe Janiszewski, but felt obliged after the executive helped him win federal and state grants. "He said he needed the
money and I gave him the money."
Oct. 26 Former MVC clerk Jarmaine Ravenell pleads guilty to
stealing more than $1,000 in customer payments while employed at the Bakers Basin facility in Mercer County. Ravenell is among
91 people, including 13 former MVC employees, prosecuted since late 2003 by the Division of Criminal Justice's MVC Document
Oct. 27 FBI agents interview Cipel in Israel for more than
Oct. 28 A former Hudson County official admits helping create
bogus birth certificates for sale to illegal immigrants. Jean Anderson pleads guilty after a long-running probe by the FBI
and U.S. State Department into a wave of fraudulent birth certificates issued in Hudson County.
Oct. 29 FBI agents arrest a Marlboro Township official on bribery
charges. Prosecutors say Richard Vuola offered about $150,000 in campaign funds to a Marlboro Township Council member for
the official's vote on a development proposal.
Nov. 8 McGreevey bids the state a somber farewell, saying he
was "sorry, so, so sorry" for the scandals that brought down his administration.
Nov. 15 McGreevey submits his letter of resignation and leaves
Nov. 17 Acting Gov. Richard Codey appoints a retired Supreme
Court justice and a law professor to help overhaul the executive branch's ethics regulations and training procedures. Saying
the rules for government employees who purchase billions of dollars in services each year are inadequate and pointing to past
scandals, Codey says he wants to restore people's faith in state government.
Nov. 19 An Oceanport man is accused of trying to blow the cover
off an FBI corruption probe in Monmouth County. Agents arrest Frank Calandrino after he is indicted on obstruction charges.
Prosecutors say Calandrino was working as an undercover FBI witness in May 2003 when he secretly tipped off the subject of
a corruption probe to the fact that agents were recording their conversation.
Nov. 19 Assemblyman Anthony Impreveduto pleads guilty to state
charges of misappropriating and diverting thousands of dollars in campaign funds to pay personal expenses. He also agrees
Nov. 22 State authorities charge a Monmouth County probation
officer with illegally collecting unemployment insurance benefits. Maxine Kantrowitzis is accused of filing for UI benefits
despite working as an investigator for the Monmouth County Probation Office.
Nov. 29 Former Irvington mayor Sara Bost is freed from prison
after serving almost one year for witness tampering. Most of her term was spent at the women's federal prison camp in Alderson,
W.Va., the same camp that welcomed Martha Stewart this year.
Dec. 6 Following an eightmonth investigation by Attorney General
Peter Harvey, the former vice president of the state commerce commission is indicted along with her sister and 65-yearold
mother for conspiring to funnel state money through noshow jobs and falsifying records to cover up the scam. Lesly Devereaux,
longtime adviser to the Rev. William Watley, the former commerce secretary, is charged with 16 counts of public corruption
that includes official misconduct, conspiracy and theft.
Dec. 7 Edison Councilman William Kruczak announces he will
quit Jan. 31 as part of a deal with the Attorney General's Office that will close its investigation into whether he attempted
to use his position to avoid a drunken-driving arrest. Under the deal, Kruczak also will plead guilty in municipal court to
driving while under the influence and refusing to submit to chemical breath testing.
Dec. 8 A federal judge postpones sentencing for developer Charles
Kushner until Jan. 15, after prosecutors complain Kushner is stifling their ongoing investigation into his companies. The
defense, meanwhile, submits more than 700 letters and a 150- page sentencing memorandum highlighting Kushner's accomplishments
Dec. 17 Codey's office announces that McGreevey's troubles
cost taxpayers nearly $159,000 in legal bills.
Dec. 22 Federal judge sentences former Hudson County Freeholder
William Braker to 41 months in prison for taking kickbacks from a psychiatristturned- FBI informant who had won millions of
dollars worth of county contracts. "I know I might have made a terrible mistake here," he told the judge. "I'm deeply remorseful."