News and Press Releases

Businessman admits to conspiring to pass $10,000 in cash to then secaucus mayor

May 12, 2011


NEWARK – Ronald Manzo pleaded guilty today to conspiring to provide a $10,000 cash payment to the then-Mayor of Secaucus, N.J. in exchange for that official’s agreement to assist a purported real estate developer in development matters in Secaucus, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.

Ronald Manzo, 67, a businessman from Bayonne, N.J., pleaded guilty before United States District Judge Jose L. Linares to Count One of an Indictment charging him with conspiring with the then-Mayor of Secaucus, Dennis Elwell (“Mayor Elwell”), and Edward Cheatam (“Cheatam”) to obtain a corrupt cash payment of $10,000 in exchange for Mayor Elwell’s future official assistance in real estate development in Secaucus.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

During the spring of 2009, Manzo participated in several meetings with a cooperating witness (the “CW”), who was posing as a residential real estate developer, and Cheatam, who was an Affirmative Action Officer for Hudson County and a Commissioner of the Jersey City Housing Authority. During those meetings, Manzo was informed by the CW that the CW was interested in meeting public officials who could assist the CW with his development interests in North Jersey, including Secaucus. Manzo further was informed that the CW would pay cash to Mayor Elwell for his assistance.

Manzo thereafter arranged and participated in a meeting between Mayor Elwell, Cheatam and the CW on or about May 28, 2009. During that meeting, Manzo and Mayor Elwell were informed by the CW that the CW would provide cash to Mayor Elwell in several installments – including at that time, after Mayor Elwell’s upcoming primary election in June and after the upcoming November election – in exchange for Mayor Elwell’s future official assistance in the CW’s real estate development matters in Secaucus. Also during that meeting, Manzo accepted $10,000 in cash from the CW, with the intention of providing that cash to Mayor Elwell. Manzo admitted that, shortly after the meeting with the CW, he provided the $10,000 in cash to Mayor Elwell, knowing that the $10,000 cash payment was being made in return for Mayor Elwell’s future official assistance. Manzo further admitted that he later confirmed with the CW during a meeting at a diner that he had passed the $10,000 cash payment to Mayor Elwell by writing down on a napkin, “yes, no problem,” which Manzo then showed to the CW.

In addition, Manzo admitted to receiving additional cash payments from the CW during the course of the investigation, including (1) a $5,000 payment for facilitating the $10,000 cash payment to Mayor Elwell and (2) $27,500 in payments connected to United States v. Louis Manzo and Ronald Manzo, Criminal No. 09-759 (JLL).

As part of the plea agreement, Manzo agreed to forfeit $42,500, which represents the total amount of money that he received from the CW during the course of the investigation. Also as part of the plea agreement, in exchange for Manzo’s plea of guilty to the above-described offense, at the time of sentencing, the Government will move to dismiss Counts Two and Three of the Indictment and the charges against him in Criminal No. 09-759 (JLL).

The charge to which Manzo pleaded guilty carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for September 7, 2011.
Fishman credited Special Agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff, with the ongoing investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Maureen Nakly and Eric Kanefsky of the Special Prosecutions Division.


Defense counsels:

Peter Willis, Esq., Jersey City
George Taite, Esq., Jersey City
Samuel De Luca, Esq., Jersey City

Elwell, Dennis and Manzo, Ronald Indictment

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