NEWARK, N.J. – Officials are decrying political corruption in New Jersey after more than 40 people, among them rabbis and elected officeholders, were arrested in an investigation in which some were accused of laundering tens of millions of dollars and of black-market trafficking of kidneys and fake Gucci handbags.
The 44 arrests Thursday were a remarkable number even for New Jersey, where more than 130 public officials have pleaded guilty or have been convicted of corruption since 2001.
"New Jersey's corruption problem is one of the worst, if not the worst, in the nation," said Ed Kahrer, who heads the FBI's white-collar and public corruption division. "Corruption is a cancer that is destroying the core values of this state."
...Federal prosecutors in the U.S. said the investigation 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.
Prosecutors then used an informant in that investigation to help them go after corrupt politicians. The informant — a real estate developer charged with bank fraud three years ago — posed as a crooked businessman and paid a string of public officials tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to get approvals for buildings and other projects in New Jersey, authorities said.
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.
Others arrested included building and fire inspectors, city planning officials and utilities officials, all of them accused of using their positions to further the corruption.