FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 6, 2011
NEWARK, N.J. – Former Secaucus, N.J., Mayor Dennis Elwell was convicted today for accepting a $10,000 cash bribe in exchange for agreeing to provide assistance in securing town approvals for purported real estate projects in Secaucus, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
The jury returned the guilty verdict against Elwell, 66, following a two-week trial before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark federal court. Elwell was convicted of one count of bribery and was acquitted on one count of conspiracy and one count of attempted extortion under color of official right.
“A sitting mayor took ten thousand dollars from someone seeking an illegal advantage,” said U.S. Attorney Fishman. “With every opportunity to walk away from the table, Elwell instead walked away with the cash.”
“Today’s verdict speaks loudly for the people of New Jersey that the citizens demand, expect, and deserve honesty from their elected officials,” said Michael. B. Ward, Special Agent In Charge of the FBI’s Newark field office. “There has been much discussion in the press about the integrity of the government’s case and the government’s witnesses, but in the end, it really comes down to the cold hard facts of the case. Those facts prove the guilt of Dennis Elwell.”
According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial:
On May 28, 2009, Elwell met with Ronald Manzo, a businessman and friend of Elwell, Edward Cheatam and Solomon Dwek – a cooperating government witness with the government – at La Reggia Restaurant at the Meadowlands Plaza Hotel in Secaucus. During that meeting, Dwek purported to be a developer interested in building a large scale real estate development in Secaucus. He offered to pay Elwell $10,000 “green” in exchange for the mayor’s future assistance, action and influence in favor of his development projects. At the end of the meeting, Dwek gave $10,000 in cash to Manzo, which was intended for Elwell, in the parking lot of the hotel restaurant. Elwell then accepted the $10,000 in cash from Manzo, knowing that the cash payment was being made in exchange for his future official assistance.
On July 17, 2009, Elwell met with Cheatam, Manzo and Dwek at Secaucus Town Hall. During that meeting, Elwell confirmed that he had received the $10,000 in cash from Manzo, and that he was happy with it.
Elwell was arrested at his residence by the agents of the FBI on July 23, 2009.
Elwell’s conviction on the bribery count carries a maximum statutory penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is currently scheduled for November 15, 2011.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI’s Red Bank Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Ward in Newark; and IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff, for the investigation leading to today’s conviction.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maureen Nakly and Eric Kanefsky, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
Defense counsel: Thomas Cammarata Esq., Jersey City, N.J.
Jeffrey Garrigan Esq., Jersey City, N.J.