2 NJ officials plead guilty to extortion ring

(AP) - Two more former public officials pleaded guilty Friday in New Jersey's largest corruption sweep, including one who admitted accepting $70,000 in bribes to set up meetings for a government informant

News 12 Staff

Sep 18, 2009, 11:47 PM

Updated 5,421 days ago

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(AP) - Two more former public officials pleaded guilty Friday in New Jersey's largest corruption sweep, including one who admitted accepting $70,000 in bribes to set up meetings for a government informant who was posing as a corrupt developer.
Edward Cheatam and Denis Jaslow each pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, a felony punishable by a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. Under terms of their pleas, both men likely will receive much lighter sentences.
Cheatam, 61, a former Jersey City housing commissioner and the vice president of the city's board of education, acknowledged setting up numerous meetings and introductions for Solomon Dwek, who became a government cooperating witness after being arrested for bank fraud in 2006.
Forty-four people were arrested in July in a dual public corruption and money laundering investigation that centered around Dwek, the son of a Deal rabbi. The money laundering defendants included rabbis in Deal and Brooklyn, N.Y.
Last week, two former Jersey City officials pleaded guilty to extortion-related counts, the first guilty pleas in the case.
Prosecutors said the total amount of bribes given by Dwek to officials introduced to him by Cheatam between last December and this July was more than $200,000.
Jaslow's involvement in the sting was less pronounced, but the former investigator for the Hudson County Board of Elections admitted Friday he accepted $15,500 for introducing Dwek to JerseyCity council candidate Michael Manzo and Joseph Castagna, a city health official.
James Lisa, an attorney representing Jaslow, said his client made "a big error in judgment" and took responsibility for his actions. John Collins, representing Cheatam, did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.
Cheatam is viewed as a crucial defendant in the case, both for the number of officials he introduced to Dwek and because he admitted taking money from Dwek and converting it into campaign contributions for Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy.
Healy, who presides over New Jersey's second-largest city, has not been charged in the investigation. He said Friday he would not comment on the ongoing probe. Healy acknowledged this week that he has been questioned by FBI agents.
AP wire reports contributed to this article


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