- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 23, 2009

NEWARK, N.J. — The mayors of two New Jersey cities and a current and former state legislator were among more than two dozen people arrested Thursday in a sweeping corruption investigation.

Among about 30 people arrested Thursday were Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano III, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini, former Jersey City Council President L. Harvey Smith and state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt.

Van Pelt is accused of accepting $10,000 from a cooperating government witness posing as a developer who sought help in getting permits for a project in Ocean County.

Smith, a former state Assemblyman and Jersey City mayoral candidate who served four years as the city’s council president, and several other current and former Jersey City public officials also are accused of accepting money to help the fake developer gain permits and approvals.

In separate money laundering complaints, several individuals from Brooklyn and New Jersey were charged with offenses ranging from the trafficking of kidneys from Israeli donors to laundering proceeds from selling fake Gucci and Prada bags. It was not immediately clear how the money laundering arrests were connected to the corruption arrests.

Mike Winnick of the Elberon section of Long Branch was praying inside the Deal Synagogue when it was raided by FBI, IRS and Monmouth County Prosecutor’s Office agents.

“Everyone was looking at each other, like, ‘What’s going on here?’” he said.

Winnick said four FBI agents escorted a rabbi from the synagogue into his office and blocked the doorway.

Winnick said he left shortly afterward.

Nearby, FBI and IRS agents removed several boxes from the Deal Yeshiva, a school that educates the children of Sephardic Jews.

More than two dozen people were brought to the FBI’s Newark field office Thursday morning. One agent slowly walked an elderly rabbi into the building as another covered his face with a felt hat.

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