During New Jersey’s storied history, party bosses have often appeared as larger than life and seemingly above the law. For ten years through 2008, as Bergen County Democratic Party Chair, Joe Ferriero was such a figure. In 2007 he attempted unsuccessfully to unseat Senator Weinberg and her Assembly running mates who had been steadfast opponents of his organization. At the peak of his power, Ferriero was courted by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama during their presidential primary battle in 2008. Then later in 2008 he was indicted in federal court on eight mail fraud counts. He was found guilty on three counts and sentenced to prison. In 2010 he was released when a judge vacated the decision following the Supreme Court’s narrowing the scope of “honest service fraud.”
Then in 2013, a federal grand jury again indicted Joe Ferriero on charges of bribery, kickback and shakedown schemes. After seven week of dramatic testimony the defense rested its case on Thursday. Ferriero decided not to testify on his behalf.
When the trial opened in Newark Federal Court in 2015 the prosecutor said, “Ferriero had abused his “immense power and influence… lining his pockets with hundreds of thousands of dollars through a series of bribery, extortion and fraud schemes… He operated in a ‘secret world’ masking his illicit activities ‘by creating a series of shell companies’ to conceal the profits from his crimes.” In one scheme Ferriero was accused of bribing his former political ally, Dennis J. Oury, by making him a secret partner in a grants-writing business. A more lucrative scheme involved the alleged shakedown of the Virginia-based Mills Corp., which in 2002 was vying with two other competitors for the right to develop a retail and entertainment complex next to Giants Stadium in East Rutherford.
So the man who has been credited with engineering the resurgence of his party in Bergen County a decade ago, was sentenced to prison, released, and then accused of racketeering. After rising and falling he soon should hear another jury’s verdict. There have been many twists and turns during the trial with high-powered individuals providing testimony. He is unlikely to escape unscathed. The Record, which has covered the trial extensively, lists 16 articles with links here.