Suffice to say the Garden State, my home by way of full disclosure, has had its problems with corruption before.
Three ex-mayors of Newark, the state’s largest city, have been convicted of crimes.
Yet the arrest of 44 people, including the mayors of three municipalities and five rabbis takes the notion of corruption to a whole new level.
It’s a twisted tale, this one, and involves allegations of kidney selling, fake Prada bags, and a box of Apple Jacks cereal stuffed with $97,000 dollars. And it should surprise no one living in New Jersey that it all began with a real estate developer.
Developers in Jersey, you see, have almost become synonymous with double dealing. In order to get profitable projects built, the logic goes, they’ve got to grease the wheels. That sometimes means making nice with elected officials who hold the fate of an office tower or condo block in their hands. In this case, the developer is one Solomon Dwek, who himself was charged with scamming a bank out of millions back in 2006.
The feds turned him into an informant, and what a snitch he turned out to be! All of what follows are allegations, and those charged are innocent until proven guilty.
Most of the rabbis involved are accused of laundering Dwek’s money through charities they controlled. Some of them also allegedly laundered their own profits from the sale of fake Gucci and Prada bags in a similar fashion. The politicians allegedly took bribes to make sure Dwek has those necessary permits and approvals to get projects finished.
Yet the most outrageous allegations are against Levy-Izhak Rosenbaum.
He’s allegedly been running a kidney peddling operation that makes the $10,000, to $25,000 bucks the pols were scamming pale in comparison. According to prosecutors, Rosenbaum would buy kidneys from people in Israel for $10,000, then resell them here for $160,000. The story goes that Solomon Dwek introduced the kidney merchant to an undercover agent posing as his secretary. She told Rosenbaum her uncle needed a transplant, to which he allegedly assured her he’d been in the business for a long time.
Even more startling is word that many of the key players involved in the corruption dealt with Dwek knowing that he’d been a government target for his bank scam. The probe that netted the 44 suspects began a decade ago out of two cases, and Thursday arrests involved 200 FBI and IRS agents. In one case, the Mayor of Hoboken, NJ, Peter Cammarano had just been sworn in at the beginning of the month.
One wonders what the politicians are thinking now that they know the money they got was pitifully small when compared to the $3 million dollars allegedly laundered by the rabbis. No matter. The one person who must really be sweating after all this is New Jersey Gov. John Corzine. Facing a nationally watched election some say he could lose, the last thing this “corruption fighting” governor needed as to see a bunch of predominately Democratic elected officials led away in handcuffs.
Yet this is the public perception of New Jersey anyway, isn’t it? Should it be? You tell me.