OCTOBER 22, 2007
A state legislator who is an influential Baptist minister and was once a high-ranking county law enforcement officer is the first to plead guilty in a New Jersey corruption ring that has seen nearly a dozen public officials statewide get arrested.
The Democratic state Assemblyman, Alfred Steele, admitted in federal court that he accepted $15,500 in bribes in exchange for using his "personal touch" to influence the awarding of profitable state insurance and roofing contracts. Steele was caught on secret FBI audiotapes boasting that he had "all different votes" in a city regarding what companies would receive public contracts.
The veteran lawmaker and former Passaic County under sheriff admitted to the judge that he repeatedly used his influence as an Assemblyman with local officials inside the district he represented and with other influential lawmakers and officials outside his district.
A longtime Baptist pastor, Steele was one of 11 public officials arrested last month in a huge federal corruption probe featuring some of New Jersey’s most 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 sums 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.
Among those arrested and charged was Passaic mayor Samuel Rivera, a highly regarded member of Hillary Clinton’s coveted Hispanic Leadership Council, for taking a $5,000 bribe to deliver the majority of city votes in favor of an insurance businesses.
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