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Federal agents arrest 44 including politicians in New Jersey corruption probe

[JURIST] The FBI arrested and charged 44 people [press release; complaints, PDF] on a variety of conspiracy, extortion, money laundering, and corruption counts Thursday, including several local politicians. The FBI said that the investigation, which began as an investigation of a money laundering ring run by rabbis operating between New Jersey and Israel, only began to focus on public corruption when a cooperating witness went undercover and began contacting local politicians. Those charged include [NYT report] Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano, Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell, Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez, State Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt, Jersey City City Council President Antonio Vega [official profiles], and Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini. New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine [official profile] said [press release], "[a]ny corruption is unacceptable - anywhere, anytime, by anybody. The scale of corruption we're seeing as this unfolds is simply outrageous and cannot be tolerated." Those arrested arraigned Thursday afternoon.

A number of public figures have faced corruption charges recently. Former Illinois governor Rod Blagojavich [JURIST news archive] was indicted [JURIST report] in April on corruption charges. In February, two Pennsylvania judges pleaded guilty [JURIST report] to accepting kickbacks in exchange for sentencing juveniles to certain facilities. FBI director Robert Mueller [official profile] said in April of last year that the FBI was investigating 2,500 public corruption cases [JURIST report], a 50 percent increase from five years prior.

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