Another Guilty Plea in 'Dirty Jersey' Roundup

The Jersey City Council president resigns while a councilman pleads guilty

By Jonathan Dienst and Brian Thompson
|  Tuesday, Oct 6, 2009  |  Updated 4:25 PM EDT
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Another Guilty Plea in 'Dirty Jersey' Roundup

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LAS VEGAS - AUGUST 29: (L-R) Nevada Department of Public Safety, highway patrol division, Deputy Chief Philip Tilt, FBI special agent in charge Steve Martinez, Nevada Department of Public Safety Director George Togliatti and FBI spokesman David Staretz, hold a news conference as a reporter looks on at right in front of the FBI Las Vegas field office to discuss the capture of fugitive polygamist Warren Jeffs August 29, 2006 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Jeffs, the fugitive leader of a polygamist Mormon sect who has been on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List since May, was arrested by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper on August 28 during a traffic stop. Jeffs was wanted in Utah and Arizona on charges linked to allegations of arranging marriages between men and underage girls. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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A Jersey City councilman stepped forward and admitted in federal court today that he took a $5,000 bribe from an FBI cooperator -- making him the 45th person linked to a massive corruption probe in New Jersey.

Councilman Philip Kenny pleaded guilty Tuesday in connection with the ongoing federal corruption investigation across the state.  Kenny said he took the cash in exchange for a promise of future assistance.  A short time later, he forfeited his seat on the City Council.

Meantime, Jersey City City Council President Mariano Vega, one of the 44 people arrested in the July takedown, resigned from his position effective Friday.
 
Kenny becomes the sixth official - and second elected official - to plead guilty in the corruption probe while Vega remained under a cloud of questions. 

Numerous Jersey City officials were among those charged.  Guy Catrillo, a member of the Mayor's Action Bureau, City Health Department official Maher Khalil and Board of Education VP Ed Cheatham pleaded guilty last month.  Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy admits he met with the FBI informant.  Healy has not been charged and he denies any wrongdoing.
 
In court, Kenny said he accepted two checks thinking he would later help a developer with a property on Garfield Avenue.  The developer was really the FBI cooperating witness.  Asked by Judge Linares if he understood his actions were illegal, Kenny answered "Yes."

In July, the FBI carried out one of the largest corruption sweeps in the state's history -- rounding up elected officials, including the mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus ad Ridgefield, as well as several rabbis.

The corruption investigation, which has been ongoing for over ten years according to officials, dovetailed with a "high-volume international money-laundering conspiracy," federal officials said.

Officials say separate from the corruption probe, some of the suspects charged today were also connected to an illegal human organ-selling ring.   Investigators say some charged would take cash payments to help find organs for sick patients in need of transplants.  It's unclear where the body parts might have come from or how many surgeries may have been done.

The body parts scheme involved kidney transplants, authorities said.  Patients in need would pay middle-men to find willing donors in Israel.  Investigators said the suspects would then have the donor and patient lie to hospitals that they were related. Hospitals would then do the operation unaware that cash payments were part of the deal.  Officials say Robert Wood Johnson Hospital in New Brunswick and Johns Hopkins in Baltimore were allegedly contacted by the suspects for these procedures. 

In past years, New Jersey has seen more than 100 corruption-related arrests of public officials. 

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