Friday, May 25, 2007

New Jersey Man Is Accused Organized Crime Leader.

Kareem Fahim, "New Jersey Man Is Accused As Organized Crime Leader," in The New York Times, May 24, 2007, at p. B4.


"ELIZABETH, N.J., May 23 -- From his base on a work site underneath the Goethels Bridge, a member of the Gambino crime family gained influence in the affairs of two state unions, ran gambling rings in northern New Jersey and New York and collected a salary from a no-show construction job, prosecutors said yesterday."

"The man, ANDREW MEROLA, 40, was arrested during a vehicle stop in East Hanover, N.J., where he lives, the authorities said. He faces charges including being a leader of organized crime, racketeering and theft by extortion. Two union officials were also arrested this week, along with more than twenty other people who prosecutors said played roles in Mr. Merola's various criminal schemes."

The feds seem to have worked out a method of "sharing" information - "selective leaks" -- with some New Jersey prosecutors and law enforcement people, perhaps unofficially, while bypassing the Trenton Syndicate's players in the legal system as much as possible. I suggest that they avoid sharing information with the notoriously corrupt Office of Attorney Ethics (OAE) or with New Jersey's baby attorney general, Anne Milgram.

This arrest is only the beginning since such a massive criminal network, allegedly, could not operate in New Jersey and other states without the cooperation of government and other officials. In New Jersey, this probably includes judges and maybe Supreme Court justices.

"Wada-ya, kidding? Naaa ... " How many federal Grand Juries are hearing matters pertaining to New Jersey "events" and "personalities"? Several -- allegedly. Besides the one or more concerned with Senator Menendez, of course, who claims to have "absented" himself from Hudson County politics, allowing the "barons" to do what they like. See Raymond Hernandez & David W. Chen, "In Immigration Debate, Menendez Sees an Opportunity," in The New York Times, June 25, 2007, at p. B1. (Menendez is very good at seeing opportunities.)

"The authorities said that Mr. Merola, working with associates, inserted himself into the financial affairs of two unions: Local 825 of the International Union of Operating Engineers, based in Springfield, which Mr. Merola belonged to, prosecutors said; and Local 1153 of the Laborers' International Union of North America, based in Newark."

I think it is becoming clearer why $187 million was spent in New Brunswick and no high school was built. Many of these alleged criminal organizations have judges and state employees, at the Department of Labor, perhaps, on the payroll. Traditionally, in New Jersey, "nothing happened" is the only response to such criminality. Union County Prosecutor Theodore J. Romankow is brave (and unusual) in following through on these matters. Mr. Romankow seems like a good candidate for New Jersey Attorney General, or someone to fill a vacancy on the state Supreme Court, whatever his party affiliation. The same may be said for Monmouth Prosecutor Luis A. Valentin. Other prosecutors and judges are doing an exceptionally good job under difficult circumstances in New Jersey. It may not be wise to name them. You know who you are. Several good prosecutors in Hudson and Essex are doing excellent work right now.

"Working with a member of the rival Luchese family, Mr. Merola solicited a $20,000 bribe from a construction company that did not want to hire workers from Local 825, the authorities said. Another associate of Mr. Merola approved pay raises and was involved in other employment matters regarding workers in Local 1153, they said."

Mr. Merola, is (apparently) not Italian-American, having changed his name some time ago. I am sure that, among his alleged associates there are Latinos and members of other ethnic groups in New Jersey. (See Al Pacino's great performance in "Scarface.") Those members of the Cuban-American community who are under the impression that all persons in our ethnic community are lawyers, doctors, dentists and accountants are in for a disappointment.

Former Chief Justice Zazzali specialized in labor law when he was in private practice, right? I wonder whether he had occasion to "encounter" any of these fine "gentlemen" or to represent these labor unions or other "allied organizations" in the Labor sector of the economy? When it comes to New Jersey's legal corruption, nothing surprises me. You don't get to the New Jersey judiciary by staying away from the state's corrupt politics.

"Prosecutors said Mr. Merola and his lieutenants used a web site called Topbettors.com in their operations" -- I wonder why I have so many computer troubles? -- "but they did not detail exactly how the site was used. The site bills itself as an offshore facilitator of betting operations, providing 'an offshore call center and accounting services' for land-based sports wagering interests. A man who answered a phone number listed on the web site and who would identify himself only as Frank said no one was available to answer immediately."

"The gambling operations led to loan sharking, the authorities said, and Mr. Merola, using two enforcers, 'resorted to violence or threats of violence to collect his debts,' according to a statement released by prosecutors."

Allegedly, the preferred method used by organized crime in the Garden State is to arrange for the arrest of someone -- for a minor traffic offense, like not wearing a seat belt perhaps -- and then to have that person assaulted or killed in jail. It is rumored that judges, cops, newspaper people (including some on the best periodicals) -- are all at the service of these organizations, that also employ highly "ethical" attorneys, who are usually asked to serve on ethics committees before rising to a Superior Court judgeship, or higher. How you doing there, Jaynee?

"Don't forget to plan your New Jersey vacation!"

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