Part-time resident among those busted in FBI sting of Jersey officials
By Jay Braman Jr.
Mariano Vega, a part-time Fleischmanns resident who was involved in the Fleischmanns First movement, has been charged in a probe that netted 44 New Jersey officials and others on corruption and money laundering charges.
Vega, who is City Council President in Jersey City, New Jersey, is one of 44 people arrested in New Jersey and New York last Thursday in a broad-ranging corruption and international money laundering investigation that led to charges against two New Jersey Assemblymen and mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus and Ridgefield. The FBI and IRS investigation also ensnared rabbis from the Syrian Jewish communities in Deal and Brooklyn on money-laundering charges.
Federal prosecutors allege that bribes were accepted by New Jersey Assemblymen, mayors, and dozens of others. Orthodox rabbis are alleged to have been acting more like crime bosses than religious leaders, laundering millions through synagogues and yeshivas in Deal, one of the state’s wealthiest towns. One realtor arrested in the sting allegedly tried to sell an informant a black market kidney for $160,000.
The arrests were made following an informant tape recording many of the accused for more than two years. In one recording, the informant, Solomon Dwek, while posing as a developer, is allegedly giving Vega $2,600 in exchange for information about government plans for legislation that would help Dwek with infrastructure costs.
Vega, 59, is accused of accepting three payments of $10,000, two of which he allegedly instructed a go-between to have broken down and converted into individual contributions to his re-election campaign, and the third which he received after his election win.
The criminal complaint filed against Vega in the United States District Court, District of New Jersey, alleges that Vega “did knowingly and willfully conspire to obstruct, delay, and affect interstate commerce by extortion under color of official right, by accepting and agreeing to accept corrupt and structured campaign contributions that were paid and to be paid by another, with that person’s consent, in exchange for defendant Mariano Vega’s official assistance in Jersey City government matters.
In a prepared statement Monday, Vega said he was innocent. “The events from this past Thursday are as shocking to me as everyone else,” he said in a statement before the council caucus. “I am not guilty of the allegations. In our system of justice we are presumed innocent until proven guilty. I do not intend to resign as council president nor as councilman.”
Fleischmanns First is a local civic organization established to promote the revitalization of the village and to build local community and business support.
Fleischmanns Mayor Dave Morell did not return calls this week to comment on Vega or provide an update on Fleischmanns First.