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Federal judge refuses to dismiss racketeering, bribery charges against Ferriero

Photo Credit: Courtesy NJ.COM (2013

YOU READ IT HERE FIRST: For the second time, a federal judge has refused to dismiss charges against Joseph A. Ferriero, the former chairman of the Bergen County Democratic Organization.

After refusing to toss a federal indictment against him last fall, U.S. District Judge Esther Salas on Wednesday let stand, without comment, charges that Ferriero conducted BCDO affairs through a pattern of racketeering under what’s known as the federal RICO Act.

She said he also could be prosecuted under New Jersey bribery statutes, which his lawyer contended are over-broad.

Ferriero is charged with soliciting bribes and extorting payments as part of securing various grants, building projects and software contracts.

READ THE INDICTMENT HERE: Ferriero, Joseph INDICTMENT

The indictment also charges him with conspiring to promote bribery and distribute payoffs, as well as with committing mail and wire fraud.

Defense attorney Michael Baldassare has accused the government of conducting a “tragic and unprincipled attack” against his client “without any legal or factual basis.” He said that Ferriero operated as a private consultant and not a party chairman on the projects targeted by prosecutors.

The 2013 indictment came three years after the former power broker left federal court in Newark a free man, thanks to a change in the “theft of honest services” fraud law by the U.S. Supreme Court.

It includes charges related to the activity that Ferriero was first accused of, while adding a pair of alleged schemes involving a real estate company in Virginia that allegedly paid $1.7 million in an effort to develop land owned by the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority (NJSEA) in Bergen County. It also accuses Ferriero of accepting bribes through a Nutley-based attorney in exchange a favorable opinion of a software developer and his companies to various public officials in Bergen County.

Ferriero — who served as BCDO chairman from 1998 until January 2009 – “conducted the BCDO’s affairs through a pattern of racketeering activity involving three schemes: the Governmental Grants Consulting (GGC) kickback scheme, the retail and entertainment project bribery and extortion scheme and the SJC Consulting (SJC) bribery scheme,” the indictment alleges.

Ferriero offered then-incoming borough Bergenfield borough attorney Dennis J. Oury a “concealed ownership interest in GGC in exchange for Oury’s agreement to exercise official action and discretion in GGC’s favor in Bergenfield,” it says.

Oury, who was Ferriero’s political aide and ally, “accepted the offer and used his official position to cause GGC to be hired in Bergenfield,” the indictment alleges.

A portion of GGC’s proceeds from the borough were ultimately kicked back to Oury by Ferriero, it says.

A previous indictment for the same scheme led to a guilty plea by Oury in September 2009, for which he was sentenced in November 2012 to three years of probation.

A federal jury in Newark later convicted Ferriero of one count of conspiracy and two counts of mail fraud related to the same scheme. However, the U.S. Supreme Court limited the scope of the “honest services” fraud law before Ferriero could be sent, forcing a federal judge to dismiss the convictions on conspiracy and two mail fraud counts.

U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman credited special agents of the FBI, led by investigators from his office under the direction of Counsel to the U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig, with the subsequent case.

“The U.S. Attorney’s Office has refused to listen to reason after his lawyers have, for months, sought to show them that neither the law nor the facts support their allegations,” Baldassare and co-counsel Jennifer Mara wrote in a statement immediately after the September 2013 indictment.

“The bottom line is that the last time the government charged Mr. Ferriero, the jury acquitted him of five counts and the court dismissed the remaining counts of the indictment because they were legally invalid,” they said.

“The extent of their crusade against Mr. Ferriero is revealed by their taking the extraordinary step of charging him alone with racketeering in an effort to revive old allegations that could not otherwise be charged based on the statute of limitations, which would bar almost all of what is charged in this indictment.

“We are confident that, once again, Mr. Ferriero will be vindicated after a full and fair trial, taking into account both the law and the facts,” the lawyers added. READ MORE….

PHOTO: Courtesy NJ.COM (2013)

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