NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Jurors in the federal corruption trial of a northern New Jersey mayor and an associate were treated Tuesday to videotapes secretly made by a government informant, one of which showed a defendant echoing a phrase from a celebrated sting decades ago.
“Money talks and (expletive) walks,” tax preparer Vincent Tabbachino tells informant Solomon Dwek on the tape from August 2008, a year before Tabbachino and more than 40 others were arrested in a corruption and money-laundering sting.
The phrase entered the lexicon in the late 1970s when it was uttered by Pennsylvania Congressman Michael “Ozzie” Myers on secret tapes in the government’s Abscam sting. Myers eventually served nearly two years in prison after pleading guilty to conspiracy and bribery.
Prosecutors allege Tabbachino steered Dwek, who posed as a corrupt developer, to Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez in 2009 as part of a scheme to get Suarez to use his influence to help Dwek with building permits.
Tabbachino and Suarez each face extortion and bribery counts, and Tabbachino faces money-laundering counts that will be tried separately.
The grainy black-and-white tapes, made with a camera concealed in Dwek’s coat, show a low-angle view of Tabbachino sitting across a restaurant table from Dwek, the men separated by plates of food and bottles of oil and vinegar.
“I need guys who are players, guys I can own,” Dwek tells Tabbachino, adding, “I can give the guy a taste up front and then once he delivers the approval, I give him the balance.”
A few minutes later, Tabbachino tells Dwek, “We’re in, kid. We’re going to do business.”
Two days later, Dwek is seen in another video handing Tabbachino a FedEx envelope on the street that contains $10,000, according to prosecutors.
Tabbachino’s attorney contends his client played along with Dwek in the hopes of getting legitimate real estate business and actually returned a second payment of $10,000 to Dwek that had been earmarked for Suarez; Suarez never received the Dwek money and never agreed to do anything illegal, his attorney argued in opening statements Monday.
While the videotapes highlighted Tuesday’s session, Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark McCarren spent most of the day reviewing Dwek’s extensive criminal past, which includes a guilty plea in a $50 million bank fraud. Dwek also has admitted ripping off real estate investors for $100 million.
Among those he victimized were his uncle, Joseph Dwek, and family friend Jack Adjmi, both of whom were once his business partners.
When asked by McCarren to explain why he would steal from people who had helped him, Dwek replied: “Greed. I guess you could say I was greedy and took advantage.”
The government is seeking to demonstrate that Dwek’s targets in the current sting were just as greedy, and so far their efforts have been successful: Of the 46 people arrested last year, nearly half have pleaded guilty, and two — former Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini and Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt — were convicted largely on the strength of videotape evidence.
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)