Closing Arguments Set in Corruption Case of Jersey City Official

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    NEWSLETTERS

    Burlesque Hall of Fame
    Leona Beldini, a Jersey City deputy mayor charged with taking bribes from an FBI informant, worked for years as a burlesque dancer under the name "Hope Diamond, Gem of the Exotics." Photos courtesy of The Burlesque Hall of Fame.

    Jury deliberations will begin this week at the first trial stemming from New Jersey's largest corruption sting.

    A federal judge in Newark will explain the charges to the panel and lawyers are presenting closing arguments Monday. Suspended Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini faces six charges of bribery and extortion.

    The 74-year-old Democrat is accused of accepting $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions from a government informant who posed as a developer offering bribes in exchange for building approvals.  Beldini's case could possibly set the tone for other, upcoming corruption trials, analysts have speculated. During the course of the investigation, it was also revealed that the deputy mayor was a former burlesque dancer who went by the name of "Hope Diamond."

    The defense rested without calling any witnesses.

    Federal prosecutors claim Beldini accepted the money -- part of campaign contributions -- on behalf of Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy from government informant Solomon Dwek. They allege Beldini, acting as Healy's campaign treasurer, promised to help Dwek with building approvals and to be the real estate broker for his development.

    The defense claims Beldini never accepted cash from Dwek and has done nothing illegal.