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Jersey City's Beldini, Cheatam indicted in corruption probe

Corruption_optA federal grand jury in Newark Thursday issued the first indictments in connection with the July 23 corruption roundup of 44 people that included legislators, mayors and local officials.

Slapped with a one-count indictments were Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini and Edward Cheatam, a Jersey City housing authority commissioner.

Beldini, 74, is accused in the indictment of accepting $20,000 in illegal campaign contributions from Solomon Dwek in exchange to help him gain favor with an official later identified as Jersey City Mayor Jeremiah Healy. Beldini thought Dwek was a developer but he was actually cooperating in the federal sting and wearing a recording wire.

Cheatam, 61, is accused in the indictment of accepting $15,000 in bribes from Dwek and introducing him to Beldini. Cheatam is also Hudson County affirmative action officer.

"As alleged in the indictment, Beldini, a high-ranking Jersey City official, sold her office for her personal financial gain and the benefit of Jersey City Official 1 (Healy),'' said New Jersey Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra Jr. "In exchange, she promised a developer official favors not available to the honest business person.''

Healy has not been charged in the official corruption case.

Also arrested on July 23 were five rabbis and nine others who were charged with money laundering.

Under federal law, prosecutors are required to seek indictments against defendants within 30 days of filing charges. Most of the other defendants in the case have signed agreements with the U.S. Attorney's office agreeing to push back the deadline.

A number of the agreements state the defendants are engaged in plea negotiations, including former Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt (R-Ocean) and Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega.

Among the defendants are former Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith (D-Hudson), former Hoboken mayor Peter Cammarano, former Secaucus mayor Dennis Elwell and Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez.    

- TOM HESTER SR., NEWJERSEYNEWSROOM.COM

 

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