SEPTEMBER 10, 2007
Nearly a dozen public officials have been arrested and federally charged in a widespread New Jersey political corruption ring featuring prominent state and city lawmakers as well as top school board officials.
The accused, all Democrats, have been charged with extortion and bribery for taking hefty cash bribes to influence the award of public contracts to companies that offered insurance brokerage or roofing services. The scheme spans from northern to southern New Jersey and includes five members of the same local Atlantic County school board, a pair of state Assemblymen, the mayor of Passaic and councilmen from several cities.
Of interesting note is that the Passaic mayor (Samuel Rivera), arrested for taking a $5,000 bribe to deliver the majority of city votes in favor of an insurance business, was a highly regarded member of Hillary Clintonâ??s Hispanic Leadership Council.
The New York Senator created the coveted group to guide her presidential campaignâ??s outreach efforts among Hispanics and Rivera was on its Executive Committee until federal prosecutors filed a four-page criminal complaint last week.
Others charged in the scheme include a pair of New Jersey assemblymen (Alfred Steele and Mims Hackett), two Passaic councilmen (Marcellus Jackson and Jonathan Soto), the president of the Pleasantville School Board of Education and four of its board members.
All of the public officials either conspired or extorted corrupt payments, according to federal prosecutors who have hundreds of tape-recorded and video taped encounters of the officials in action. All of them face 20 years in prison and, while some have resigned amid the scandal, Clintonâ??s Hispanic Leadership Council advisor posted bail and insists he will remain mayor.
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