FBI agents arrested several rabbis this morning in New Jersey and New York as part of an investigation into what the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark, N.J., described as a “high-volume, international” money-laundering conspiracy. The mayors of Hoboken and Secaucus, N.J., a state assemblyman, and the deputy mayor of Jersey City were also arrested as a result of a public-corruption probe. The Newark Star-Ledger is reporting the rabbis came from Syrian Jewish communities in Deal, N.J., a shore town popular with wealthy Syrian Jews, and Brooklyn. At least one synagogue and one yeshiva, both in Deal, were searched this morning by FBI agents. An FBI spokesman tells Tablet the 30 people arrested, including the rabbis, are expected to appear in a Newark federal court this afternoon.
The New Jersey U.S. Attorney’s office was headed until last winter by Christopher Christie, a Republican known for aggressive investigations of public corruption who is currently running for governor against the incumbent Democrat, Jon Corzine. A poll released yesterday puts Christie ahead by 15 percentage points.
UPDATE, 12:45 p.m.: The Newark Star-Ledger is reporting that this morning’s sweep began with an investigation into money transfers by members of the Syrian Jewish community in New York and New Jersey to public officials in connection with real-estate transactions.
According to a criminal complaint filed this morning, a cooperating witness helped FBI investigators capture Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano offering to help ease zoning restrictions in exchange for campaign cash. The Asbury Park Press identifies the witness as Solomon Dwek, a once-prominent member of the Syrian community in Deal, New Jersey, who was arrested in 2006 after bouncing a $25 million check. A message left seeking comment from Dwek’s attorney, Christopher Porrino, was not immediately returned.
A separate complaint filed in the case of Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt, a Republican, alleges the lawmaker offered a cooperating witness assistance securing coastal development permits in exchange for money, and mentioned a prospective congressional run. It is not clear whether that witness is the same person mentioned in the Cammarano complaint.
The Asbury Park Press and the Wall Street Journal, citing anonymous sources, are also reporting that the case also involves allegations of trafficking in human body parts and that one of those arrested is an organ dealer.
This morning’s sweep included arrests in the Williamsburg, Flatbush, and Borough Park neighborhoods of Brooklyn. The Yeshiva World News is reporting that there will be a public gathering in Brooklyn’s Gravesend neighborhood to recite prayers on behalf of all those arrested; Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Brooklyn, told Tablet that anyone picked up in New York will be taken to New Jersey, where the case is being prosecuted.
N.J. corruption arrests ensnare Assemblyman, mayors, rabbis [Star-Ledger]
FBI: Van Pelt Took $10,000 Bribe for Waretown Development [Asbury Park Press]
Dozens Arrested in New Jersey Corruption Probe [WSJ]