Tag Archive: dennis oury

Joe Ferriero: the rise and fall of a NJ Party Boss whose second trial nears an end

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.

The Ferriero Story Continues

Now I know why some FOJ (Friends of Joe Ferriero) keep stalking me on Blue Jersey. Because right around the time the Freeholders are trying to bring back the bad old days of Pay to Play in Bergen County under Joe – including his minion Freeholder Ganz, THIS story comes out.

http://www.northjersey.com/new…

It appears that Mariner’s Bank which was run by the developer Diabes – who has been a big player in construction and who got the boondoggle bid for Overpeck Park – loaned – unsecured mind you – and at 6% – $350,000 to Joe Ferriero, as well as other questionable loans to Dennis Oury and former Dumont Mayor Matthew McHale.  

This story is the gift that keeps giving.  I would not want to be Joe Ferriero when his bill of $387,000 comes due for that loan in July.  This story just keeps reminding everyone just how messed up things were in Bergen County during the Reign of Boss Joe.   And there are a lot of his best buds that really want folks to forget what happened – like Freeholder Ganz. Ganz reminds me of the minions in Harry Potter, who wish for nothing more than the return of he who shall not be named.  Hence this diary to remind everyone.  I highly recommend you read the full article.  It is pretty fascinating.  Even the Bergen County Prosecutors office was involved – parking their money at Diabes’ bank.  What a tangled web.  

Quote of the Day: “It would not have been good for business”

Dennis Oury was called and testifed at the Joe Ferriero trial yesterday. When asked about why he wasn’t named on resolutions appointing he and Ferriero’s consulting company as  grant writer, he said it was an intentional omission:

Each of the towns that received in December 2001 a resolution appointing GGC as grant writer was controlled by Democrats. Thomas Barrett and Anthony Mottola were listed as officers in each resolution, and Ferriero and Oury were not named at all.

“It would not have been good for business if our names surfaced in a public way, for reasons I said before,” Oury testified.

NJ Centrist has his take in post looking at whether Joe Ferriero is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in the diaries and you can follow along with the trial at the Ferriero trial blog.

Joe Ferriero: Guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

I really, really loathe the political machine system we have throughout New Jersey. Whether it’s a Democratic or Republican machine, whether it’s run by a boss named Ferriero, Adubato, Lesniak, or Norcross, the whole idea of unelected but very powerful puppet masters pulling strings and playing kingmaker sickens me.

That said, I also believe strongly in the right of those in the United States to a fair, public trial by jury, and the requirement that those accused of a crime must be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in order to be convicted.  

Right now, one slimy character in particular has caught people’s attention, and rightly so. Joe Ferriero is best known as the erstwhile boss of the Bergen County Democratic machine…I mean, Organization.  There’s no doubt that a lot of the things party bosses like Ferriero do are unethical and conflict with the principles of a free, democratic nation.  A boss wields a lot of money and power.  Thanks to gerrymandering, it’s easy for these party heads to essentially handpick people for an elected post before going through the motions of them being “nominated” and “elected” by the people.  And most candidates aren’t willing to take on the machine, instead running on the party line and then doing the party’s bidding once in office.  State Senator Loretta Weinberg is a prime example of that rare public official who’s willing to actually do something about political machine, as evidenced by her challenge and defeat of Ferriero’s legislative slate in 2005 and 2007.  Unfortunately, Weinberg is also a prime example of that race public official who takes on the machine and wins.  We’ve all heard of politicians who’ve fought the machines and ruined their careers in doing so.  There’s State Senate Co-President John O. Bennett, who refused to appropriate state funds for an arena in Pennsauken that had been demanded by George Norcross.  Norcross, of course, stormed out of the room, shouting, “I will fucking destroy you!” and proceeded to trample the top Republican in the Senate in his re-election bid the following year.  Or more recently, machine rival and current Senate President Dick Codey, who will probably lose his post next year thanks to a back-room deal between Norcross and Stephen Adubato, who want their candidates – Steve Sweeney and Sheila Oliver, respectively – in charge the New Jersey legislature.  Just a couple examples of an all-too-common phenomenon here in Jersey.

Anyway, to get back on track:  Political machines may be unethical, and the bosses who run those machines may be unethical.  But have their slimy activities ever violated federal or state law?  Federal prosecutors, including (at least up until recently) Chris Christie, say that in Ferriero’s case, the answer is yes.  Ferriero’s defendant pleaded guilty last month, but Ferriero pleaded not guilty.  And now that he’s receiving his fair, public trial by jury, the question is:  Is Joe Ferriero guilty beyond a reasonable doubt?

More below the jump.

The Ferriero and Oury Story

Dennis Oury can actually be credited, along with Boss Joe Ferriero (currently on trial) for being the catalyst that prompted me to write and write and write since January of 2007 – right here on Blue Jersey.

While the Christie campaign attempts to rewrite history as if Mr. Christie singlehandedly brought down Boss Joe and Dennis the Menace, I’ll guide you all on a little history hike down memory lane, whaddaya say?

It was a chance meeting with then Assemblywoman Loretta Weinberg at a Howard Dean meetup in 2003 that inspired me to enter politics in 2004 and ultimately to become a councilwoman.  Loretta swore me in Tenafly in January, 2007.  Ironically, it was the brief but outrageous missive written to the Bergen County Committee by Mr. Dennis Oury that very same month, that turned this newly elected official into a political blogger virtually overnight.

It was a brazen attempt by Joe Ferriero to allow his friends from OUTSIDE District 37 to unseat Loretta Weinberg from the Senate seat Boss Joe had promised to Ken Zisa.  Ferriero & Oury were trying to change the bylaws to make it a COUNTYWIDE election for a DISTRICT wide senate seat.  I called it “representation without representation”.  Do WE vote for NY’s Governor? ‘Course not. But here was Mr. Oury’s letter in 3 little points making Joe Ferriero’s wishes abundantly clear to those of us who fought hard to make our votes count in electing Senator Weinberg and Assemblywoman Valerie Huttle.  

Stile: “The driving force in the scheme”

In what Charles Stile called a stunning twist, Dennis Oury pled guilty yesterday as we covered here on the blog. He answered 61 questions as part of his plea agreement and here is how Charles Stile summed up Oury’s testimony and what it foreshadows for Joe Ferriero:

Ferriero emerged from the questioning as the driving force in the scheme, the de facto lobbyist pressuring state officials to free up state grant money, and the author of a phony shareholder agreement that assigned “front people” to disguise their interest in Government Grants Consulting LLC. And it was Ferriero who dispersed their payments, including $25,016.97 for Oury.

According to Stile, Ferriero was mentioned in 20 of the 61 questions asked by the Judge. Ferriero’s trial is scheduled to start tomorrow, with his lawyer saying he will not plead guilty and that he wants a speedy trial.

Weinberg donates Oury money to group that helps pay for mammograms for uninsured women

Seeking to turn a negative into a positive, Senator Loretta Weinberg is donating $1,000 contributed to her in ’04 and ’05 to a worthy charity:

“I’ve instructed my campaign to donate that money to the Jill Fader Breast Cancer Endeavor at Englewood Hospital which helps to pay for mammograms for uninsured women,” said Weinberg, the Democratic lieutenant governor candidate.

After Republicans tried to make an issue of the donations, the Senator had this to say:

Weinberg, a critic of Oury and Ferriero when they were in power, said she did not know why Oury made the two $500 donations to her campaign, which date back to 2004 and 2005.  

“I’m the one who supported the candidates who wound up getting rid of Dennis Oury in Bergenfield,” she said, referring to the ouster of Oury as Bergenfield’s borough attorney.  “Where were the Republicans when I was standing up to Dennis Oury?”

The charity is especially significant because of the recent focus on Christie’s plan to offer mandate free policies and the implications that would have for coverage of procedures like mammograms, which Weinberg hit on again today as well:

“If we don’t require insurance companies to cover mammograms, they won’t. Period. That is why we battled against the big insurance companies to enact these mandates in the first place,” said Weinberg.  “The American Cancer Society helped lead the fight for the mammogram mandate because mammograms are a crucial defense against an insidious disease. Mr. Christie is either lying or he fails to understand the implications of his own policies. Either way, he has once again shown that he is wrong when it matters most.”

Weinberg sponsored a bill that strengthened the original law mandating coverage in 2004, requiring insurance companies to also cover mammograms for women under 40 who have a family history of breast cancer.  

Oury pleads guilty: Ferriero next?

NorthJersey.com/The Record is reporting that Attorney Dennis Oury pleaded guilty this morning “to charges of defrauding the residents of Bergenfield, conspiracy to commit mail fraud and failing to file a tax return for 2006.” Opening arguments had been scheduled for the day after tomorrow.

I’d say the obvious issue is whether Oury made a deal to testify against Joe Ferriero.

Update (10:53AM) It’s so obvious I should have waited to see Joe Ryan of NJ.com’s account:

“Did you and Joseph Ferriero deliberately set up and structure this company so that your involvement would not be publicly known to others?” asked U.S. District Judge Stanley R. Chesler.

“Yes,” Oury said.

Oury tries to use the Chris Christie defense

Oh the irony:

Attorney Dennis Oury says his failure to tell his accountant about $25,000 he received from a grant consulting business is like the “innocent oversight” cited by former U.S. Attorney Chris Christie in neglecting to report interest income from a loan to a colleague.

Without mentioning the Republican gubernatorial candidate by name, Oury’s defense lawyer, Gerald Krovatin, alluded to him in court papers seeking to strike certain language from a revised indictment as irrelevant to the crimes charged, and prejudicial to Oury.

Here’s what they want changed and their justification for the motion:

Oury is seeking to strike language from four new counts, added in July, alleging willful failure to file tax returns for the years 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.

The passages in question allege that from 2004 through 2007, Oury “concealed” from his personal accountant $25,000 he received from GGC in 2004 and only after he became aware of the grand jury probe in 2008 did he instruct his accountant to include that income.

Krovatin said Oury’s memory was jogged by the investigation and, in an apparent reference to Christie, described the lapse as an oversight, “similar to an innocent ‘oversight’ of interest income from a personal loan to a colleague or friend.”

Prosecutors opposed the motion made by Oury’s team. I didn’t think it was an oversight for Christie and I don’t think it’s one for Oury either. But it’s certainly an interesting legal argument that keeps the Christie loan story in the news.

Another new general counsel at BCDO

Word is that the BCDO has replaced their general counsel yet again (Update: This has been confirmed.). If it’s true, Joseph Ariyan would be the fourth BCDO attorney in less than six months. Ariyan was the Democratic senate candidate in the 39th legislative district in 2007.

Former BCDO attorney Dennis Oury was replaced by Paul Kaufman on September 11. Joe Ferriero fired Kaufman on January 15 and replaced him with Joseph Marinello.