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Mayors, rabbis arrested in corruption probe

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Mayors, rabbis arrested in corruption probe

  • Story Highlights
  • Mayors of Hoboken and Secaucus, New Jersey, among more than 40 arrested
  • "High-volume, international money-laundering conspiracy" also alleged
  • Rabbis arrested in connection with money-laundering part of probe
  • Source: Corruption, money-laundering probes separate but tied by common players

(CNN) -- At least three New Jersey mayors, other public officials and five rabbis were among 44 people arrested Thursday in a federal investigation of public corruption and money laundering.

Hoboken, New Jersey, Mayor Peter Cammarano III and New Jersey Assembly members Daniel Van Pelt and L. Harvey Smith were among those arrested, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Newark, New Jersey.

A federal criminal complaint alleges that Cammarano, 32, a Democrat, took about $35,000 in bribes from a government witness posing as a real estate developer.

Another complaint alleges that Van Pelt, a Republican, accepted $10,000 in cash as "consulting fees" after an FBI official posing as a real-estate executive asked him to help fast-track a real estate project in Waretown, New Jersey, a section in Van Pelt's district. Van Pelt, 44, also is mayor of Ocean Township.

Others arrested in the public corruption portion of the investigation include Secaucus, New Jersey, Mayor Dennis Elwell, 64, who is president of a family-owned trucking company, and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, the U.S. attorney's office said.

The probe also involves a "high-volume, international money-laundering conspiracy," the office said. Rabbis in New York and New Jersey were arrested in connection with the money-laundering part of the investigation, the office said.

Cammarano, a former city councilman at large in Hoboken, was elected mayor in June and inaugurated July 1. According to his campaign Web site, he pledged to "lower taxes, reform government and deliver real change for Hoboken."

The FBI began the large operation three years ago.

The public corruption and money-laundering probes are separate but are linked by common players, a source close to the investigation said.

The source described the alleged public corruption as "straight bribery" -- cash-filled envelopes exchanged for political influence.

The other investigation centered on a group of rabbis who allegedly laundered tens of millions of dollars through their religious organizations for a fee, according to the source.

According to Newark's The Star-Ledger, the rabbis taken into custody are from the Syrian Jewish communities of Deal on New Jersey's northern shore and in Brooklyn, New York.

The arrests resulted from an FBI and Internal Revenue Service probe "that began with an investigation of money transfers by members of the Syrian enclaves in New York and New Jersey," the newspaper said on its Web site, NJ.com.

Those arrested Thursday "include key religious leaders in the tight-knit, wealthy communities," the report said.

Federal prosecutors released criminal complaints that contained dozens of pages of detailed allegations.

One complaint said that Van Pelt, the state legislator, bristled when photographed with an undercover agent at a restaurant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

"We don't want to get our picture taken," the complaint quotes the lawmaker as saying.

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