FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 7, 2011
NEWARK, N.J. – Lavern Webb Washington, a former candidate for Jersey City, N.J., City Council, was indicted today for defrauding her campaign fund in connection with money provided to her by government cooperating witness Solomon Dwek in exchange for her future official assistance, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman announced.
Webb Washington, 63, of Jersey City, was charged with three counts of mail fraud and one count of wire fraud.
According to documents filed in this case:
From January to May 2009, Webb Washington ran an ultimately unsuccessful campaign for the Ward F city council seat. Webb Washington established a campaign fund to accept and disburse contributions related to her campaign.
During this time, she agreed to accept a total of approximately $15,000 in contributions from Dwek. The contributions were paid to Webb Washington in three installments of $5,000 with the assistance of Edward Cheatam – who served at various times as the affirmative action officer for Hudson County, a Commissioner on the Jersey City Housing Authority, and the Vice President of the Jersey City Board of Education – and a consultant, in exchange for Webb Washington’s future official assistance, action and influence in obtaining development approvals for Dwek for a purported property on Garfield Avenue in Jersey City.
Webb Washington intentionally concealed her receipt of these contributions from the campaign and its treasurer, and approximately $11,000 of the funds were never deposited into the campaign bank account or accounted for in the campaign’s records which failed to report the receipt of any money from Dwek. Webb Washington is alleged to have diverted most of the $15,000 provided by Dwek for her personal use. She then signed and caused to be mailed false reports, which intentionally failed to disclose any of the money provided by Dwek, to the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
Webb Washington previously pleaded guilty to an Information charging her with extortion conspiracy and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison in March 2010 by U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares. The Third Circuit’s appellate decision in United States v. Manzo clarified that the charge on which Webb Washington was previously convicted did not apply to unsuccessful candidates for office. Therefore, Webb Washington had not been directed to report to start serving the previously imposed sentence. Webb Washington will be arraigned on the new charges on a date to be determined.
If convicted, Webb Washington faces a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense on each of the three mail fraud counts and the one wire fraud count with which she is charged in the Indictment. Webb Washington will be arraigned on the new charges on a date to be determined.
U.S. Attorney Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael B. Ward, and IRS – Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Victor W. Lessoff, with the investigation leading to today’s Indictment.
The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark J. McCarren of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is considered innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Defense counsel: Lorraine Gauli-Rufo Esq., Assistant Federal Public Defender, Newark