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Former Secaucus mayor guilty of taking bribes

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

A federal jury on Wednesday convicted former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell of taking a $10,000 cash bribe from the key figure in New Jersey’s largest public corruption ever.

Elwell (l.), Dwek

The jury returned the guilty verdict against Elwell, 66, following a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark federal court , according to an official government news release .

Elwell was convicted of one count of bribery and was acquitted on one count of conspiracy and one count of attempted extortion under color of official right.

“A sitting mayor took ten thousand dollars from someone seeking an illegal advantage,” U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said. “With every opportunity to walk away from the table, Elwell instead walked away with the cash.”

“Today’s verdict speaks loudly for the people of New Jersey that the citizens demand, expect, and deserve honesty from their elected officials,” said Michael. B. Ward, Special Agent In Charge of the FBI’s Newark field office. “There has been much discussion in the press about the integrity of the government’s case and the government’s witnesses, but in the end, it really comes down to the cold hard facts of the case. Those facts prove the guilt of Dennis Elwell.”

According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial:

On May 28, 2009, Elwell met with Ronald Manzo, a businessman and friend of Elwell, Edward Cheatam and Solomon Dwek – a cooperating government witness with the government – at La Reggia Restaurant at the Meadowlands Plaza Hotel in Secaucus.

During that meeting, Dwek purported to be a developer interested in building a large scale real estate development in Secaucus. He offered to pay Elwell $10,000 “green” in exchange for the mayor’s future assistance, action and influence in favor of his development projects.

At the end of the meeting, Dwek gave $10,000 in cash to Manzo, which was intended for Elwell, in the parking lot of the hotel restaurant. Elwell then accepted the $10,000 in cash from Manzo, knowing that the cash payment was being made in exchange for his future official assistance.

On July 17, 2009, Elwell met with Cheatam, Manzo and Dwek at Secaucus Town Hall. During that meeting, Elwell confirmed that he had received the $10,000 in cash from Manzo, and that he was happy with it.

Elwell was arrested at his residence by the agents of the FBI on July 23, 2009.

Elwell’s conviction on the bribery count carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the official release. Sentencing is currently scheduled for November 15, 2011.

U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI’s Red Bank Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ward in Newark; and IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff, for the investigation leading to today’s conviction.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maureen Nakly and Eric Kanefsky, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.

ALSO SEE (click on headlines to read) :

What now after judge revokes bail of FBI operative in NJ corruption sting?

Tuesday, 28 June 2011 21:51 Jerry DeMarco

THE UPSHOT: The cases against nine defendants are in question now that a federal judge has revoked bail for the crook-turned-government informant who helped authorities pull off New Jersey’s largest public-corruption bust in history. They include former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, whose trial is continuing.

Former Hudson elections investigator admits role in bribing Secaucus mayor

Tuesday, 07 June 2011 21:59 Jerry DeMarco

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: A former investigator for the Hudson County Board of Elections admitted today that he agreed to provide a $10,000 bribe to Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, as part of what became the largest public corruption sting in New Jersey history. However, with the government’s consent, more serious extortion conspiracy charges that he already had pleaded guilty to were dismissed. What this means for Elwell can’t be considered good.

Does Manzo guilty plea hurt former Secaucus mayor in corruption case?

Thursday, 12 May 2011 17:13 Jerry DeMarco

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST : The prospects for former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell of acquittal at a federal trial may have taken a hit today when Ronald Manzo admitted in U.S. District Court in Newark that he conspired to funnel $10,000 in bribe money to him, as part of the largest corruption sting in New Jersey history.

Ex-Secaucus mayor indicted in corruption sweep

Tuesday, 17 November 2009 21:42 Jerry DeMarco

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST : Former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell muscled cash payments from a corrupt developer in return for promised favors through political associate Ronald Manzo, a federal grand jury indictment charges.

Guilty pleas in bribery sting point feds toward public officials

Wednesday, 09 September 2009 17:52 Jerry DeMarco

Federal prosecutors are laying a major piece of New Jersey’s biggest corruption case ever, as two “smaller” players caught in a sting against dozens of public officials plead guilty in Newark. An oversimplified analogy: Think of how investigators in “The Sopranos” used the Adriana character to amass info on ranking members of the crime family while promising to keep her boyfriend out of prison.

Secaucus mayor quits

Tuesday, 28 July 2009 17:52 Jerry DeMarco

Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell became the first of three mayors arrested last week on bribery charges to resign. Like his counterparts Anthony Suarez of Ridgefield and Peter Cammarano of Hoboken, Elwell is accused of taking thousands in cash from Solomon Dwek, a federal defendant who agreed to pose as a corrupt developer in an FBI sting.

EXCLUSIVE: Meet the cooperator behind N.J.’s biggest corruption bust ever

Thursday, 23 July 2009 13:12 Jerry DeMarco

Call it “Rabscam”: A key witness in a federal corruption probe against several North Jersey mayors and a group of Sephardic rabbis is a multi-million-dollar Jersey Shore developer gone bust, CLIFFVIEW PILOT has learned this morning, through extensive reviews of tapes and transcripts.  “At least I bet on the right horse this time,” Solomon Dwek said, during one of several secretly recorded conversations he produced in the FBI sting. That horse would be the U.S. government.

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