Union City developer admits money laundering role in N.J. corruption probe

Union City developer admits money laundering role in N.J. corruption probe

January 14, 2010 Star-Ledger

A Union City developer and former partner of FBI informant and admitted scam artist Solomon Dwek admitted today to conspiring to launder money as part of the federal sting operation that led to the arrests of several mayors, rabbis and other officials last July.

Shimon Haber, 34, of Brooklyn, also acknowledged a role in attempting to funnel money into the campaign account of an unnamed Union City elected official as part of an effort to gain approvals on a major real estate project he and Dwek had been pursuing on Palisades Avenue in Union City.

Court filings and campaign finance reports show the money went to an election campaign associated with Mayor Brian Stack. The mayor has not been charged with any wrongdoing and has declined repeated requests to discuss the matter.

Haber was an unwitting key figure in the case. He was apparently one of the first to be targeted by Dwek in the corruption investigation that eventually led to the arrests of 44 people last summer, according to criminal complaints in the case. He is the 10th defendant to plead guilty.

Dwek, who began working as an informant for the government after being charged in a $50 million bank fraud, had done business with Haber in the past, bankruptcy records show. He used his connections with Haber to gain an introduction to Moshe Altman, another Union City developer from Monsey, N.Y., who was able to launder large sums of money through several religious charities, according to federal prosecutors.

Altman and Haber first met with Dwek in March 2007. During that meeting in Altman’s second-floor office above a laundromat on Central Ave. in Union City, the criminal complaints say that Dwek, who had been wired for surveillance by the FBI, talked about moving thousands of dollars out of his bankrupt business and converting it to cash for payoffs.

He wanted to avoid having the money seized by a bankruptcy judge.

"Because of the bankruptcy court no one can know nothing," Dwek said. The checks were eventually routed by Altman through a number of charitable organizations, say prosecutors, which took a 15 percent cut from the exchange.

In August 2007, the three met again to talk about making political contributions in Union City to grease the skids for the Palisades Avenue condominium project. Altman then introduced Dwek and Haber to an unnamed subordinate to the mayor at a political fundraising event.

"We want to invest a lot of money in the city," said Dwek in transcripts of the surveillance tapes. "We want to make sure everyone does the right thing by us." He allegedly told the official that he was willing to structure $10,000 in various payments to circumvent campaign contribution limits.

After the meeting, Haber and Altman complained to Dwek about speaking so openly about making illegal payments.

"Ay, Ay, Ay. Too much talking. You can’t talk to them like this," Altman told Dwek, according to the transcript.

Haber agreed. "You gotta start slow with these guys," he said.

Appearing before U.S. District Judge Jose L. Linares in Newark yesterday morning, Haber stood solemnly, fingertips pressing down on the glass top of the defense table, as he waived indictment on the charges. Speaking in a low voice, he acknowledged his participation under questioning by Assistant U.S. Attorney Dustin Chao as he pleaded to one count of conspiracy to launder money.

Haber faces between 10 and 16 months in prison under the terms of his plea deal with prosecutors, although federal judges have wide discretion when sentencing defendants. Linares scheduled his sentencing for April 28. He remains free on $100,000 bail.

Haber’s lawyer, Charles A. Stillman of New York, declined to discuss the case other than to say his client now had the opportunity to move on with his life.

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