The bust includes a key member of Gov Corzine's staff.
44 arrested in N.J. corruption probe
Suspects include rabbis, mayors; probe involved black-market kidneys
NEWARK, N.J. - An investigation into the sale of black-market kidneys and fake Gucci handbags evolved into a sweeping probe of political corruption in New Jersey, ensnaring more than 40 people Thursday, including three mayors, two state lawmakers and several rabbis.
Even for a state with a rich history of graft, the scale of wrongdoing alleged was breathtaking. An FBI official called corruption "a cancer that is destroying the core values of this state."
Federal prosecutors said the investigation initially focused on a money laundering network that operated between Brooklyn, N.Y.; Deal, N.J.; and Israel. The network is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars through Jewish charities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey.
All but one are Democrats
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.
Also, five rabbis from New York and New Jersey ? two of whom lead congregations in Deal ? were accused of laundering millions of dollars, some of it from the sale of counterfeit goods and bankruptcy fraud, authorities said.
Those arrested include:
- Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III, charged with accepting $25,000 in cash bribes from an undercover cooperating witness.
- Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith, charged along with an aide of taking $15,000 in bribes to help get approvals from high-level state agency officials for building projects.
- Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt, charged with accepting a $10,000 bribe.
- Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, charged with taking a $10,000 bribe.
- Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez, charged with agreeing to accept a $10,000 corrupt cash payment for his legal defense fund.
- Former Assemblyman Louis Manzo, charged with taking $27,500 in corrupt cash payments for use in his failed Jersey City mayoral campaign.
- Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, charged with taking $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions.
- Eliahu Ben Haim, a rabbi at a synagogue in Deal, N.J., charged with money laundering.
- Saul Kassin, the chief rabbi of a synagogue in Brooklyn, charged with money laundering.
- Edmund Nahum, the principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal, charged with money laundering.
- Mordchai Fish, a rabbi at a synagogue in Brooklyn, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity. His brother Albert Schwartz, also a rabbi, was charged as well.
Those arrested included Levy Izhak Rosenbaum of Brooklyn, who was charged with conspiring to arrange the sale of an Israeli citizen's kidney for $160,000 for a transplant for the informant's fictitious uncle. Rosenbaum was quoted as saying he had been arranging the sale of kidneys for 10 years.