Democratic power broker fights for front-row seat to his own indictment announcement

Influential New Jersey power broker was charged with racketeering

Ariana Baio
Monday 17 June 2024 21:12 BST
New Jersey attorney general indicted Democratic power broker for racketeering

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas

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George Norcross, a well-known Democratic power broker and businessman in New Jersey, snagged a front-row seat at the state attorney general’s press conference on Monday morning, watching intently as prosecutors unveiled a 13-count criminal indictment against him and five others.

Wearing a black suit with loafers, Norcross sat by himself with his hands folded in his lap as New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin accused him of engaging in a years-long criminal enterprise to unlawfully obtain property and property rights on the waterfront in Camden. He was also accused of collecting millions in tax credits and engaging in an extortion plot involving government officials to maintain power.

The sprawling indictment is a shocking development for Norcross who was once considered the most powerful non-elected political official in the state.

Shortly before Platkin’s press conference began, staffers in the AG’s office asked Norcross to move from the “reserved” seating in the front row — which the businessman firmly declined to do.

“Is there someone more significant than the lead defendant in the case to have a seat in the front row while he’s being excoriated by the attorney general of the state?” Norcross said to the staffers.

He sat in the reserved seat for the rest of the presser, keeping his head forward as Platkin announced the charges and answered questions from the press.

Norcross, 68, is an insurance executive and former member of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) who spent decades influencing state legislation and politicians, especially in South Jersey.

After a series of political losses in 2021, Norcross moved to Palm Beach, Florida.

Norcross and his associates have been under investigation by the state attorney general for years, specifically for his influence on politicians and how it may or may not have benefitted him financially.

In the 111-page indictment, Platkin accuses Norcross of running a criminal enterprise, referred to as the “Norcross Enterprise,” and using threats and coercion to push a developer into relinquishing property rights on the Camden waterfront. He’s also accused of coercing a nonprofit into giving up its property rights at a discounted price.

Platkin said the property along the Camden waterfront came with state-incentivized tax credits as well as views of the Delaware River and Philadelphia skyline that made the location desirable.

The others indicted alongside Norcross include his brother and lawyer Philip Norcross; William Tambussi, Norcross’ longtime personal lawyer; Dana Redd, the CEO of Camden Community Partnership and former mayor of Camden; Sidney Brown, the CEO of a trucking and logistics company; and John O’Donnell an executive at a residential development company.

The indictment alleges Norcross told one developer he would “f*** you up like you’ve never been f***ed up before” and threatened that he would never do business in Camden if he did not give him the property rights.

Members of the Norcross Enterprise also allegedly conspired to manufacture a smear campaign of sorts by getting the mayor of Camden to stop communicating with the developer.

Norcross and his co-defendants are also accused of extorting and coercing a nonprofit organization into partnering with the developer of their choice and selling the rights to a complex for a heavily discounted price.

As a result, they obtained millions of dollars worth of tax credits, prosecutors said.

Influential Democratic power broker George Norcross, center, speaks outside the justice complex in Trenton, NJ Monday, June 17, 2024,
Influential Democratic power broker George Norcross, center, speaks outside the justice complex in Trenton, NJ Monday, June 17, 2024, (AP)

“On full display in this indictment is how a group of unelected, private businessmen used their power and influence to get government to aid their criminal enterprise and further its interests,” Platkin said in a press release. 

He added, “The alleged conduct of the Norcross Enterprise has caused great harm to individuals, businesses, non-profits, the people of the State of New Jersey, and especially the City of Camden and its residents. That stops today. We must never accept politics and government – that is funded with tax dollars – to be weaponized against the people it serves. Today we reaffirm that no one in our state is above the law – period.”

Norcross is charged with racketeering, two counts of conspiracy to commit theft by extortion in the first degree, conspiracy to commit theft by extortion in the second degree, six counts of financial facilitation of criminal activity, two counts of misconduct by a corporate official in the second degree and official misconduct.

When asked how he felt about Norcross’ presence at the end of the press conference, Platkin responded, “No comment.”

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