New Jersey in corruption sweep

David Usborne
Friday 24 July 2009 00:00

Agents from the FBI and other law enforcement agencies arrested more than 40 elected officials and Jewish community leaders in New Jersey and Brooklyn yesterday as part of a corruption investigation involving money laundering, bribes and human organs.

Most of those taken into custody were in New Jersey in a sweep that was stunning in scope even by that state's sometimes shady standards. Among those facing charges last night were the mayors of Hoboken and Secaucus, Peter Cammarano and Denis Elwell, the deputy mayor of Jersey City and rabbis from New Jersey and Brooklyn.

Officials said the investigation at first centred on a network that allegedly laundered tens of millions of dollars through Jewish charities in the New York area – the proceeds from the sale of fake Gucci and Prada bags and from the sale of kidneys and other organs from donors in Israel.

The investigation widened when a co-operating witness posed as a property developer and offered bribe money to elected officials.

The arrests underscore "more than ever the pervasive nature of public corruption" in New Jersey, said the acting US Attorney, Ralph Marra. He said that in the Garden State, "corruption was a way of life. They existed in an ethics-free zone".

Mr Cammarano is only 32 years old and took the office of Hoboken Mayor this month. "My client is innocent of these charges," his lawyer, Joseph Hayden, said. "He intends to fight them with all his strength until he proves his innocence."

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