Tag Archive: Solomon Dwek

Quote of the Day – Fulop on Christie: “Dick move”

There’s a lot in New Yorker reckoning of Gov. Christie by Ryan Lizza; dagger looks from Christie to comedians lampooning him 3 feet away, the chill between the Gov and his old mentor Gov. Kean, Christie’s Israel bumble with Sheldon Adelson like Adelson’s sycophants aren’t expected to bumble, and a recitation for New Yorker’s audience of the stuff in our Christie memory bank. His temerity as a young overconfident Republican (well-told by Richard Merkt). Cozying up to Bush. And Joe D. Leaking like a sieve to “Wally Edge” at PolitickerNJ (then called PoliticsNJ). Making a deal with Solomon Dwek, working him for his own political games. Playing gotcha with Menendez. Failing. Cozying up with Norcross and working his stable. The news – news to me, anyway – that Norcross used a young Rahm Emanuel for oppo research. The deal sold as bipartisanship (but was really just 3 of the worst people in NJ politics joining up) which only happened because Christie failed to indict Norcross in 2005.  How Sandy saved his bacon.

But one of the most telling quotes comes from one of the guys who wants Christie’s job when he’s done with it: Steve Fulop, on how Christie officials dropped meetings with him – right after Fulop decided not to endorse Christie:

“Yes, it’s political retribution. And it’s amateur and immature. But if I saw any indication that they were penalizing the city on something, that would’ve been a different animal. It’s a dick move, but it is what it is.”

Something fishy in Toms River

promoted by Rosi

There’s something fishy going on in Toms River/Ocean County and it isn’t Barnegat Bay.  Yesterday the APP reported that GOP machine connected Schools Superintendent Michael Ritacco is the target of a grand jury investigation involving fraudulent insurance practices.  Today they are reporting the insurance company which manages health claims for the Toms River School District has been delinquent in paying health care providers.  It’s gotten so bad some doctors won’t even treat school district employees.  Interestingly, the insurance company which got the contract from the School District is owned by none other than former GOP Gubernatorial and Senate candidate Douglas Forrester.

Ritacco, who makes nearly double what the Governor of New Jersey makes, is connected to Ocean County GOP boss George Gilmore and his political machine.  The only Republican to go down in last year’s corruption sting, former Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt, is also connected to Gilmore.  Van Pelt has not been sentenced, and is evidently looking for a performance contract to sing his way out of the jam he’s in ala Solomon Dwek.  As the feds close in on Ritacco it will be interesting to see if Ritacco does a song-and-dance routine as well to cut a deal for himself.  

While our Governor is traveling the country flexing his blubber and promoting his brand name, the noose is slowly tightening on a major portion of his political base.  

NJ Republicans love corrupt Dwek money

One of the biggest things that last year’s Governor race turned on was the massive arrests of (mainly) Democratic politicians – plus a couple of Republicans – for taking bribes from criminal turned informant Solomon Dwek.  And one of the things that didn’t really get that much exposure at the time was Dwek’s connection to Chris Christie and the State Republican Party.  

Here we are one year later, and the State Republican Party is still holding onto the corrupt donations from a criminal.

And interestingly, one of Dwek’s contributions during the 2000 presidential campaign went right through Chris Christie.  And as I said last year:

Follow me through this timeline of “coincidences”:

  • 2000: Dwek donates $500 to Bush through Christie’s organization.
  • 2006: Dwek gets busted for bad checks worth tens of millions
  • He then becomes an informant who bribes Democratic politicians – who knows if this was going on from before mid 2006 or if it had to do with Christie’s getting on and then off “the list” of US Attorneys to be fired – recall that Christie and Rove also spoke around this time about a potential run for Governor
  • Dwek busts are announced in the middle of Christie’s campaign for Governor, when they can do the most to build his reputation. And the timing raises objections from most in the US Attorney’s office, except Michele Brown, whose relationship with Christie raises many questions including obvious conflict of interest, in her professional conduct and his.

There’s a lot of smoke here. Too many coincidences and artful timing in the way Christie found Dwek, molded Dwek, and used Dwek to entrap politicians in a way that seems too carefully orchestrated to build a political reputation for a man who looks like he was using the United States Attorney’s Office to build himself a political reputation, which is a thing the United States Dept. of Justice forbids expressly, because of potential miscarriage of justice.

Now, both the Democrats and Republicans pledged to donate their contributions from Dwek to various charities, and here we are over a year later with much of Dwek’s corrupt $51,000 is still in the State Republican Party’s coffers.  As the Asbury Park Press noted the other day, the Democratic State Committee, Republican State Senator Jennifer Beck and Democratic Senator Menendez all donated their entire amount of donations to various charities.

I guess the State Republican Party (and Governor Christie) is just a-ok with corrupt criminal money as long as it is for their benefit and as long as they can use it for their political gain.

Integrity is not a suit you put on and take off

During closing arguments today, the prosecution took head on the claims made by former Assemblyman Van Pelt during his testimony that he was telling “everyone” he was making the transition to the private sector by becoming a private consultant. They said that the claim of being a consultant is cover for his corrupt actions:

“The defendant said on the stand the minute he (Dwek) retained me I considered myself a consultant. But the minute the defendant gets his retainer he doesn’t tell anyone,” Chao said. “What the defendant didn’t do in this case speaks volumes.”

“Integrity is not a suit you put on when you’re talking to the DEP and you take off when you’re dealing with (Solomon) Dwek,” Chao said.

But the defense painted Van Pelt as naive and attacked Dwek’s credibility:

“If Dan took a bribe why would he put the money in a joint checking account and then transfer the money, knowing there would be obvious paper trail? He had nothing to hide. People who accept bribes put the money in slippers,” Fuggi said to the jury.

“He (Van Pelt) may be a little naïve and exercised poor judgement but there is no criminal intent,” he said.

The defense also said that Van Pelt wouldn’t have talked to the Office of Legislative services if he was doing something wrong. But as we’ve written here at Blue Jersey, Van Pelt didn’t tell the whole story when seeking his ethics advice leaving out the fact that he was already sitting on $10,000 cash. The jury now has the case and will have to decide if Van Pelt’s lack of action constitutes a crime as the prosecution has argued. Much of that will depend on whether they find Van Pelt or Dwek more credible. In Hoboken during the Beldini trial, the jury went with Dwek.

Van Pelt neglected to disclose he already took money when seeking ethics advice

Former Assemblyman Van Pelt’s defense is that he was merely starting a consulting business and that the $10,000 cash he took was nothing more than a retainer. But when he sought advice on whether his actions would cross ethical lines, he didn’t tell the full story to the Legislative Counsel:

Marci Hochman said Daniel Van Pelt did not mention the payment when he phoned her two days after accepting a cash-stuffed envelope from an FBI informant who was posing as a crooked developer.

Hochman said Van Pelt told her he was thinking of starting a consulting business, not that he had already been retained for cash. She said he also failed to mention his relationship with the informant two weeks later during an annual ethics consultation required of all legislators.

She said that her advice “absolutely” would have been different had Van Pelt just told her the whole story. She also said he specifically denied having any clients. Van Pelt is trying to say he followed the advice as he got it.:

Van Pelt, however, also acknowledged accepting payment from Dwek before fulfilling two self-imposed conditions for his fledgling consulting business — leaving the Waretown council and consulting with a lawyer. He also said he didn’t have a consulting contract drawn up or spend any of the money on his business.

I still wonder how Van Pelt became the only Republican that got caught up in such a large bust. It doesn’t seem like we’ll get that answer in this trial, but we will find out whether you can actually start a business without doing anything more for it than taking an envelope full of cash as an elected official. If Van Pelt ever “starts another business”, he may want to hire a consultant to advise him on what he needs to do so he avoids these corruption problems.

FBI videos released at Beldini trial

The trial of former Jersey Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini got under way this week and along with the testimony of Solomon Dwek, the prosecution showed videos he took while working under cover for the FBI.

Black-and-white recordings shot by a tiny hidden camera depict meetings at Hudson County diners and a luncheonette where the informant, Solomon Dwek, tries to arrange a bribe to the deputy mayor, Leona Beldini, in exchange for help securing approvals for a 750-unit condominium building he claimed to be developing. Jurors watched their first clips in federal court in Newark

The defense may want the whole tapes shown so that they can argue there is some kind of context to the conversations and statements as the pieces don’t always make their client look very good:

Dwek does most of the talking on the tapes and makes clear what he is offering. Beldini’s attorneys will no doubt try to spin it that JC Political Consultants Jack Shaw and Edward Cheatam are the ones that were playing the game:

Authorities say Dwek funneled the bribes to Beldini through Shaw and Cheatam, who converted them into donations for Healy’s campaign. Beldini, Healy’s campaign treasurer, never took money directly from Dwek. But on prosecutors’ videos, it appears she may have known who was actually donating.

Cheatam has plead guilty and is going to testify against Beldini, while Shaw was found dead of a valium overdose just after his arrest last summer. Beldini seems to make it clear that everyone, including the Mayor knows what is going on. And Healy himself is all over the tapes as Dwek talks to him about giving money and what it will get him:

As Healy got up to leave, Dwek followed him and said he had donated $10,000 to his campaign previously and that he would give Shaw another $10,000 that day.

“Dave, thank you so much,” Healy says – using the Dwek’s phony name – as the video records him. He tells Dwek he wants to keep working with him.

“It’s good for the city, it’s good for everybody,” Healy says.

Healy hasn’t been charged with anything and maintains he has done nothing wrong. Beldini is charged with taking $20,000 in bribes from Dwek and faces up to 20 years in jail if convicted. The Jersey City Independent has a familiar face at Blue Jersey, JRB covering the trial as well.

Quote of the Day: “I was there — and I performed”

Solomon Dwek took the stand yesterday for the prosecution in the case of Former Jersey City Mayor Baldini and his testimony was eye opening, according to observers in the court. Within minutes of being questioned by the defense attorney, Dwek blurted this out and got testy when questioned on the legitimacy of evidence:

“I was there — and I performed.”

It has to concern the government that their key witness lost his cool on the first day of the trial. Bob Braun called his testimony “jaw dropping” and “almost absurdly funny.” Dwek said he started bribing people as a teenager to get things he wanted. Other attorneys for those charged have to be licking their chops after seeing reports of how Dwek handled himself on the stand on the very first day. Dwek’s credibility and how he holds up will be a key to the government making their cases.

Jersey City Councilman Vega facing 8 count indictment

Updated by Jason: Here is a comment from his attorney:

Vega’s lawyer, Peter R. Willis, said the issue of whether the councilman knows Dwek would be resolved at trial along with the other charges. “Mariano has no intention of pleading guilty,” Willis said.

Another domino fell this afternoon as Jersey City Councilman Mariano Vega was indicted on 8 counts after allegedly taking $30,000 in bribes from an undercover informant and making false statements to investigators:

Vega allegedly conspired with Maher Khalil, another Jersey City official who was arrested in July and has since pleaded guilty, to deposit three $10,000 bribes from faux real estate developer Solomon Dwek into his campaign account through a series of straw donors.  In return for the money, prosecutors contend that Vega promised Dwek help with development approvals for a make believe residential high rise development project on Garfield Avenue.  

[snip]

Adding a new wrinkle to the case against Vega is the false statement charge.  FBI agents met with Vega on July 22 – the day before he and 43 others were shuffled off busses and frog marched into the federal court house in Newark.  In the interview, Vega claimed not to recognize a Dwek when agents showed him his photograph, despite having met with him six times in five months – including a meeting just two weeks prior.

At the time of his arrest, Vega was serving as the Council President. He no longer holds that post after stepping down, but still says he’s innocent and remains on Council.

Did Christie use Dwek to get himself off “Rove’s list”?

We found out earlier this week that Michele Brown wanted Chris Christie to be given the credit for the political busts that resulted from molding Solomon Dwek from “money launderer and Ponzi schemer” to briber-of-Democratic officials.  And with the clamoring to take credit comes the responsibility of answering the tough questions that creep up when you are dealing with one real shady criminal like Dwek is.

Two articles that were recently posted at NJ.com show just how much Dwek ripped off from so many people:

A Star-Ledger examination of court documents shows that before Dwek became an informer for the FBI, he was running a wild Ponzi operation in which one investment was being used to pay off the debt mounting from the last one and on into the millions in the same kind of geometry that eventually exposed financier Bernard Madoff.

—snip—

Dwek admitted that he schemed with mortgage broker Joseph Kohen, 39, of Deal, to defraud PNC Bank of more than $50 million and launder $22.8 million of the proceeds through other banks.

So far, there are 120 lawsuits with respect to his crimes, and that number may very well grow over time as more comes out.

Back in July, when the story first broke, it was reported that Dwek was not originally involved in anything other than money laundering and bank fraud – certainly nothing to do with any politicians:

The case began with bank fraud charges against a member of an insular Syrian Jewish enclave centered in a seaside town. But when that man became a federal informant and posed as a crooked real estate developer offering cash bribes to obtain government approvals, it mushroomed into a political scandal that could rival any of the most explosive and sleazy episodes in New Jersey’s recent past.

And yesterday, I wrote about the very interesting set of “coincidences” between Dwek and Chris Christie, including the $500 donation that Dwek made to the Bush campaign through Christie.

For someone who prided himself and made his name on cleaning up crime and busting people who defraud others, there is a very serious question regarding Chris Christie and how Solomon Dwek was treated.  Here is someone who (1) as far as we know had NO prior dealings with political officials before he was busted for very serious financial crimes, (2) has a financial connection to Christie through a donation to Bush in 2000, (3) was busted around the same time that he spoke to Rove about his future in politics, and around the same time as the lists were being created to see which US Attorneys were to be fired and (4) suddenly, Dwek went from a money launderer and Ponzi schemer to someone being used as an informant to bust Democratic officials.

Now, if any Democratic official was dumb enough to take a bribe and got busted, that is his/her own fault.  But there is a very important question that needs to be answered – and that is why Christie went easy on someone who defrauded so many individuals and institutions for tens of millions of dollars and turned him into a “cooperating witness” for what appears to be largely unrelated political bribery.

Chris Christie and Solomon Dwek – a very interesting and tangled web

Yesterday, Solomon Dwek – the key “criminal-turned informant” for Chris Christie’s US Attorney office who helped that office bust dozens of people, including Democratic politicians –  pleaded guilty to bank fraud. But as more and more information sifts out about his role as a “cooperating witness” and his own history, there’s a very disturbing pattern that leads back to Chris Christie. And that pattern looks like more than coincidence.

The first and most obvious question is why someone who committed bank fraud to the tune of $50 million would become a central player in political bribery scandals – especially in areas where he wasn’t involved before.  And why did “tough on crime” Christie offer Dwek the opportunity to commit so much crime for so long? Crime is crime whether you’re doing it to get rich, or you’re doing it to keep yourself out of jail for the rest of your life. Why was Dwek allowed to do so much damage to – mainly Democratic – politicians (who should all be punished if guilty). Dwek’s game was bank fraud, hardly the type to wade into political bribery without considerable coaxing, and training. One of the lawyers for one politician (Louis Manzo) said this:

“How does Mr. Dwek get the starring role in this government production?” Lynch asked, following the brief appearance before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark. “We know he’s been charged with stealing $50 million. So how does he get placed in Hudson County, where he has no ties? It’s an interesting question.”

Which leads to another nearly overlooked and more disturbing item – but you’ll only know if you click through…