An investigation into the sale of black-market kidneys and fake Gucci handbags evolved into a sweeping probe of political corruption in New Jersey, ensnaring more than 40 people, including three mayors, two state lawmakers and several rabbis.
Even for a state with a rich history of graft, the scale of wrongdoing alleged was breathtaking. An FBI official called corruption “a cancer that is destroying the core values of this state.”
Federal prosecutors said the investigation initially focused on a money laundering network that operated between the New York City borough of Brooklyn; Deal, New Jersey; and Israel. The network is alleged to have laundered tens of millions of dollars through Jewish charities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey.
Prosecutors then used an informant in that investigation to help them go after corrupt politicians. The informant a real estate developer charged with bank fraud three years ago posed as a crooked businessman and paid a string of public officials tens of thousands of dollars in bribes to get approvals for buildings and other projects in New Jersey, authorities said.
Among the 44 people arrested were the mayors of Hoboken, Ridgefield and Secaucus, Jersey City’s deputy mayor, and two state assemblymen.