Feds' Informant Testifies in Massive NJ Corruption Trial

Agents arrested 44 in bust

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Solomon Dwek is a key witness in the government's public corruption case.

    "If I needed help and they had their hand out, I would bribe them."

    The government informant at the center of last summer's massive corruption sting says over the course of several years he handed cash to "mayors, council persons, sherrifs, people in helpful positions," as he built a lucrative real estate business that made him "millions of dollars."

    Solomon Dwek, 37, took the stand this afternoon in the federal trial of former Jersey City deputy mayor Leona Beldini, charged with accepting $20,000 in cash from Dwek. She is one of more than 40 people -- three dozen public officials and five rabbis -- arrested in that sting.

    Dwek testified in federal court in Newark that in turn for his cooperation, he would get favorable treatment and expedited applications for zoning and building permits on properties he purchased.

    "Instead of waiting two or three years, I would get heard in 60 days," he said.

    Dwek, who entered a plea agreement with the government in exchange for his testimony, admitted he defrauded dozens of investors over the years in Ponzi schemes, including his own uncle. He has confessed to money laundering, tax evasion and bank fraud. He became a cooperating witness after he was arrested in May 2006 for cashing a $25 million check on a closed account with PNC bank. 

    Beldini was the campaign treasurer for Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy when she allegedly accepted "contributions" from Dwek. Healy was not arrested in the sting and has said though he met Dwek, he never accepted any money from him. 

    Ten people already have plead guilty, but other defendants are closely watching Beldini's trial to see how a jury reacts to Dwek, who pleaded guilty last fall to bank fraud for passing two checks totaling $50 million and faces nine to 11 years in federal prison.

    Beldini faces six counts that include attempted extortion and accepting bribes. She is accused of taking $20,000 from Dwek, who posed as a corrupt developer, and converting it into campaign donations for Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy, who has not been charged.

    In return, prosecutors say, Beldini promised to help Dwek with building approvals for a condo development and also planned to use her real estate agency to sell properties in the building.

    Earlier Thursday, a former FBI agent testifying for the government said he has a private deal to provide security for Dwek that has made him about $50,000.

    The detail emerged at the end of direct questioning of Thomas Ceccarelli, the trial's first witness.

    Ceccarelli, now a private investigator, was hired by the FBI to monitor wiretapped phone conversations of the late Jack Shaw, a northern New Jersey political consultant who, along with Beldini, was one of 44 people arrested in July.

    Ceccarelli admitted that in September, weeks after the investigation was completed, an FBI agent approached him to provide security for Dwek because of "credible threats'' against him.

    Beldini's attorney, Brian Neary, sought to show that Ceccarelli had a conflict of interest because of his private relationship with Dwek. Ceccarelli testified he was told by prosecutors that he had to suspend working for Dwek while he appeared as a witness.

    "You're his security guy last week, and this week you're a witness,'' Neary said. "You're going to bill the government this week, and you'll go back to billing Dwek next week.''

    Jurors are to be shown secretly recorded tapes of Dwek meeting with Beldini, Healy, Shaw and former Jersey City housing commissioner Edward Cheatam. Cheatam has pleaded guilty and could testify against Beldini.