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New federal charges against former Jersey City mayoral candidate Manzo

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

The other shoe in New Jersey’s largest public corruption case ever dropped Friday for former Jersey City mayoral candidate Louis Manzo when a federal grand jury returned a second indictment against him on bribery-related charges.

Federal prosecutors got the indictments alleging that Manzo, a 56-year-old former state Assemblyman, violated federal laws by “traveling twice in aid of bribery” and by “concealing  and not reporting federal offenses committed by others in connection with the scheme.”

Manzo and his brother, Ronald, were originally charged with accepting $27,500 under a federal statute that governs public officials. But the courts ruled they were improperly charged, given that they weren’t public officials when the FBI arrested them as part of “Operation Bid Rig II.” Lou Manzo was running for mayor of Jersey City and Ron was his campaign manager.

Federal prosecutors then obtained a new grand jury indictment against Ronald. Whether the remaining charges would stand was an open question.

That changed when Ronald Manzo, 67, pleaded guilty in May to the first count of an indictment charging him with conspiring with then-Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell and Edward Cheatam – also implicated in his brother’s case — to collect $10,000 from a crooked developer-turned-government informant, Solomon Dwek,  in exchange for help from the former mayor’s in securing project approvals.

A federal jury convicted Elwell earlier this week of taking a $10,000 cash bribe from Dwek.

Louis Manzo agreed months before the 2009 election to accept his own payment from Dwek and to collect another $17,500 after he presumably was elected mayor, the federal indictment returned in Newark on Friday alleges.

It says the two meetings to discuss the arrangement were held on Staten Island and included Dwek and both Manzos.

In exchange for the payoff, Louis Manzo agreed to “use his official assistance, action and influence, if elected, to obtain certain Jersey City real estate development approvals for Dwek, and to promote Jersey City government employee Maher Khalil to a higher position,” the indictment alleges.

Manzo lost the election.

He, his brother, and Elwell – along with then-mayors David Cammarano of Hoboken and Ridgefield’s Anthony Suarez — were among more than 40 people the government said were caught with their hands in the public’s pocket, thanks to Dwek. Cheatam, who was also pinched, was an Affirmative Action Officer for Hudson County and a Commissioner of the Jersey City Housing Authority.

Cammarano pleaded guilty and served out his sentence. Federal jurors later acquitted Suarez.

A convicted felon from the Jersey Shore, Dwek worked as an operative for the government in an attempt to reduce his sentence for embezzling more than $50 million. The swindler-turned-snitch portrayed a developer looking to gain project approvals, wearing a hidden camera that recorded conversations with a number of people.

Linares ordered Dwek jailed a little over a week ago after he tried to cover up an arrest in Baltimore when he was supposed to be under house arrest in New Jersey.

He was looking at nine to 12 years in federal prison for his cooperation after pleading guilty to fraud and other charges in September 2009.

What the new developments do to his agreement with the government — and the length of the sentence Linares eventually gives him — hasn’t been fully answered yet.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman credited special agents of the FBI and IRS with making the case against Manzo, which is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorney Bradley Harsch of Fisman’s Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.


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