Beldini hit with new charges

A superseding federal corruption indictment against suspended Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini further exposes the city's allegedly corrupt political underbelly.

Beldini, arrested in July and in August indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, now faces two additional counts of attempted extortion and three counts of taking bribes to allegedly help a developer win zoning approvals in the new indictment, which is dated November 19.

The developer turned out to be FBI informant Solomon Dwek.

Beldini allegedly took $20,000 of Dwek’s money and, through straw donors, funneled it into Jersey City Mayor Jerramiah Healy’s reelection account and the Jersey City Democratic Committee. She also allegedly extracted a promise from Dwek to use her as the real estate agent for his purported development project on Garfield Avenue.

In one exchange with Dwek recounted in the indictment, Beldini, who was the treasurer for Healy’s reelection campaign, even gave him a brief tutorial on the practice of wheeling.

Beldini explained to Dwek why his $10,000 will be given to the Jersey City Democratic Committee instead of Healy’s campaign account (Healy, who has not been charged with a crime, is not identified in the indictment, but is easily identifiable as “JC Official 1”).

“What we’re trying to do is put money into different funds so we can, when we need it, funnel it back into [JC Official 1]. Which everybody does. So this is for the Jersey City Democratic Committee,” she said.

The donations were purportedly ticket purchases for a Healy/JCDC fundraising event on March 28 called “Broadway at the Beacon”

In a report filed with the Election Law Enforcement Commission (ELEC), that $10,000 appears in four $2,500 donations dated April 6, 2009 from four people who were associated with the corruption sting: Jack Shaw, a now-deceased political consultant who facilitated many of the meetings between Dwek and allegedly corrupt officials; Catherine Chin, his live-in girlfriend who has not been charged with a crime; Maher Khalil, the former Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services Deputy Director who pleaded guilty in September to taking $72,500 in bribes from Dwek; and E. Cheatam Associates, the company of former Hudson County affirmative action officer and Jersey City Housing Authority Commission Ed Cheatam, who also pleaded guilty to corruption charges in September.

Beldini allegedly told Dwek that Healy knew that the ticket purchases were funded by him and agreed with Dwek that Healy “appreciates the way [the CW] does business.”

Later, Dwek gave another $10,000 to Shaw to place directly in Healy’s reelection account. That $10,000 is broken up into four more $2,500 donations from Shaw, Chin, E. Cheatam Associates, and Michael Schaffer, who remains a commissioner on the North Hudson Sewerage Authority despite his July arrest on corruption charges.

The indictment recounts two meetings at Jersey City restaurants between Dwek, Healy, Shaw and Cheatam.

At a March 13 meeting, Healy pointed out that Beldini, in addition to being one of his deputy mayors, owns a real estate company, and agreed with Dwek that it was a “big benefit.”

At a later meeting, Dwek asked Healy to make sure his development applications were not put “at the bottom of the pile.”

From the Beldini indictment: “JC Official 1 laughed and said, ‘Bottom of the pile or top of the pile?’ Cheatam made clear that the CW “wants to be on the top,” and defendant BELDINI said, “Well, we can flip the pile.” Beldini hit with new charges