Blackmail In America: A Dark History
By J. R. de Szigethy
The recent revelation that New Jersey Governor Jim McGreevey may have been the subject of a blackmail scheme stunned America, especially those in the New Jersey - New York area acquainted with the charismatic politician. If true, McGreevey’s case is just one more example of how blackmail can affect our Democracy, a scourge that is decades old, and is a frequent tactic of members of the American Mafia.
HOOVER, BLACKMAIL, AND THE MOB
The ‘father’ of the blackmail scourge in the modern era was FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who was both a victim of and practitioner of the art of blackmail. Hoover rose to prominence as an American Icon during the 1930s when the new Federal Bureau of Investigation successfully brought down several notorious gangsters, including "Machine Gun" Kelly and John Dillinger.
With Hoover’s success came Power and the resources to yield that Power. Advances in photography and electronic monitoring equipment allowed the FBI to gain evidence that could be used in a Court of law to obtain convictions against criminals. Such technological advances, however, also presented the opportunity for criminals to develop new methods in the ancient art of blackmail and extortion. Unfortunately for America, some of these criminals wore a Badge as a member of the law enforcement community.
Available evidence suggests that before Hoover was a victim of blackmail, Hoover had already embarked upon a career as one of the most notorious blackmailers in United States history. According to "Official & Confidential," the acclaimed Hoover biography by Anthony Summers, members of the American Mafia obtained secretly taken photographs of Hoover performing a sex act on his lover, Clyde Tolson, whom Hoover placed on the taxpayer’s payroll as his number two man at the FBI. Suddenly, Hoover, who had made his career fighting members of organized crime, began to publicly make the outrageous claim that organized crime did not exist in the United States.
Once the Mafia ‘owned’ Hoover, they had no reason to fear his agency. In fact, Hoover would utilize the services of members of the Mafia whenever it was to his benefit. A classic case in point involved the murder of three members of CORE, the Congress of Racial Equality, who were killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi in 1964. This story would only fully be told in 1994, when revealed by the New York Daily News. The Daily News reported that Hoover, under pressure from President Johnson, had sent an FBI Informant named Gregg Scarpa down to Mississippi along with an FBI agent, to solve the case of the missing civil rights activists. Scarpa took a service revolver from the FBI agent and placed it into the mouth of a Klansman and threatened to blow his brains out if he did not reveal the location of the bodies of the three missing men. The Klansman complied with Scarpa’s death threat, the bodies were recovered, and 7 local men were eventually convicted for violating the men’s civil rights.
Scarpa, a handsome bi-sexual hitman for the Colombo Mafia Family, was rewarded for this and other acts for the FBI by literally being given a ‘license to kill,’ as well as a license to deal drugs. Scarpa went through the next several decades peddling drugs to kids with impunity, as well as murdering several people, including rival drug dealers. Scarpa died of AIDS in 1994. A year later, Scarpa’s son Joseph was murdered by rival drug dealers in Brooklyn.
One of the first examples of Hoover’s activities that would lead to blackmail on his part occurred during World War II, when Hoover had his agents follow a young Naval Officer named John F. Kennedy. Kennedy was the son of one of Hoover’s closest associates, former Ambassador Joseph P. Kennedy. Officer Kennedy was involved in a sexual relationship with a woman, Inga Arvad, who was a Danish national believed to be a Nazi spy. Thus, Hoover was conveniently able to launch an investigation of Kennedy’s relationship with this woman ‘for reasons of national security.’ Hoover’s agents spied on the couple and obtained tape recordings of the two in intimate activities.
The scenario by which these tapes were procured was one that Hoover would replicate hundreds of times over the decades, as he acquired an arsenal of information with which he could blackmail politicians in order to keep his job as Director of the FBI. Thus, when John F. Kennedy became President in 1961 and his brother Robert became Attorney General, who was technically the ‘boss’ of the FBI Director, the Kennedys, who wanted to fire Hoover, were in no position to do so.
The day after President Kennedy was assassinated, Hoover, as FBI Director, should have been working overtime to solve the murder of the President and determine if anyone else was involved with Oswald in this horrific crime. Instead, Hoover celebrated by partaking in his favorite pastime; gambling on horses at Mobbed-up race tracks. To this day, the FBI headquarters in Washington bears the name and face of J. Edgar Hoover, and Hoover, along with his lover Clyde Tolson, at taxpayer’s expense, were buried next to each other at the Congressional Cemetery in our nation’s capital.
THE WALTER JENKINS AFFAIR
Even though Hoover lived together openly with Clyde Tolson, the FBI Director was able to do so because of the existing culture within the journalism profession. During that time there was a rigid, un-written rule that the Media would not cover the private lives of public figures.
The closest Hoover ever came to Media scrutiny as to his private life was when his close friend Walter Jenkins was arrested with another man in the men’s room of a YMCA just two blocks from the White House. This occurred in 1964, when Lyndon Johnson was seeking re-election as President. Walter Jenkins was then Johnson’s Chief of Staff. Jenkins and Johnson had known each other for decades and Jenkins, a devout Catholic, had even named one of his six children after Johnson. Jenkins was also a close friend of Hoover, and had a brother who worked as an FBI agent.
The arrest of Jenkins was something the Media could not ignore, given that someone who was the closest Advisor to the President and was involved in personal behavior that could lead to his being blackmailed presented a potential national security risk. Hoover, however, resorted to his usual ‘spin control’ techniques. First, Hoover had Jenkins admit himself into a hospital, alleging a "nervous breakdown" brought on by his onerous government responsibilities. Hoover then visited Jenkins in the hospital, bringing him a bouquet of flowers. Hoover also tried in vain to find a psychiatrist who would claim that Jenkins had a brain tumor that caused his erratic behavior. Hoover, of course, knew that Jenkins, like himself, was gay and had been arrested at the same YMCA a few years earlier on the same charge.
Having failed in his quest to find a medical excuse for Jenkins’ behavior, Hoover then concocted a fabricated story that Jenkins had been set-up; it turned out that Jenkins had once served in the same Air Force unit that was commanded by Barry Goldwater, President Johnson’s Republican opponent in the election. Thus, Hoover and his co-horts suggested, the arrest of Jenkins was part of a "Republican plot" to bring down President Johnson. The FBI spent thousands of taxpayer’s dollars investigating Goldwater and his associates in a vain attempt to pin Jenkins’ arrest on the Goldwater campaign.
President Johnson was re-elected and rewarded Hoover by having legislation passed that allowed Hoover to remain as FBI Director, despite his having reached the mandatory age of retirement for Federal employees.
In Hoover’s final months in office during the Nixon Administration someone finally took a stand against the cross-dressing tyrant. William Sullivan, the number 3 man at the FBI revealed to key Nixon Administration officials that Hoover had blackmailed Presidents for years and that he feared Hoover would blackmail Nixon using secret recordings of telephone conversations of associates of Henry Kissinger. Hoover died shortly thereafter and Sullivan was shot to death with a rifle in a bizarre hunting accident a few years later.
THE WATERGATE AFFAIR
Blackmail was among the crimes contemplated by associates of the Nixon Administration as the bid for Nixon’s reelection drew near in the beginning months of 1972. British journalist Fred Emery’s WATERGATE provides the shocking scenario on January 27 of that year when John Mitchell, the Attorney General of the United States and the country’s chief law enforcement officer, convened a meeting in his office with John Dean, Nixon’s legal Counsel, former FBI agent G. Gordon Liddy, and Jeb Magruder, a ranking officer of "CREEP," the Committee for the Re-Election of the President. There, Liddy laid out his proposals for securing the re-election of the President:
Liddy’s estimated price tag for all of this was one million dollars. The Attorney General then chimed in, saying a half a million dollars was a more reasonable figure. The break-in at the Democratic headquarters in the Watergate complex was one of the final outcomes of this plot, for which all 4 of these men, among others, were sent to prison.
THE FRANK CHIN AFFAIR
Time Magazine would later report that the person who sold to the Watergate burglars the electronic eavesdropping equipment they had in their possession when arrested was a wire expert from New York named Frank Chin. Chin’s story is one that tells of the growing use of electronic eavesdropping devices by criminals during the era of the evolution from the radio tube to the transistor and then to the microchip from the 1950s into the 1980s. Chin was among the "Flower Children" who would ‘turn on, tune in, and drop out’ as part of the drug counter-culture of the 1960s. Once busted on heroin charges, Chin opted, instead of prison, to become an Informant for the FBI.
Thus, Chin went into business selling ‘bugs’ to criminals, while reporting this back to the FBI. One of Chin’s first customers was a prostitute, Xavier Hollander, who had Chin install bugs in her bordello in Manhattan in order to document the comings and goings of her clientele, some of whom were important men in New York. This information Hollander used to write her 1972 best-seller "The Happy Hooker."
The notoriety of Chin’s involvement in the Hollander affair spread quickly throughout New York and Chin developed a clientele that included members of law enforcement as well as members of the American Mafia. It was Chin’s association with a crooked New Jersey cop, George Weingartner, and Weingartner’s Mafia associates, including John DiGilio, an Associate of the Genovese Mafia Family, that would lead to his downfall. DiGilio, Weingartner, and their associates concocted a scheme by which they would purchase ‘bugs’ from Chin and have them planted inside their business locations. Crooked private investigators, working for the Mob, would then ‘sweep’ the businesses, detect the bugs, and then claim that authorities had illegally wiretapped their businesses. This scheme was the beginning of a trend of organized crime figures, usually those involved in the drug business, in which fabricated allegations against law enforcement are made in order to stymie State and Federal prosecutions. Criminal lawyers would then demand in the Media an "investigation of the investigation," which on the federal level would be carried out as mandated by law by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
In this case, however, the plot never was able to succeed and DiGilio would eventually be found floating in the Hackensack River. George Weingartner would later be indicted for DiGilio’s murder but chose to commit suicide during his trial. In a nod to the growing technology that Weingartner’s associates had utilized, the crooked cop left behind a video-taped suicide note. On the tape, detailed in a Star-Ledger report, Weingartner advised the cops who would find the tape to eat doughnuts as they watched him plan his exit.
Frank Chin was murdered in the garage of his parking lot in Manhattan in 1977. Evidence pointing to DiGilio would come later when Jimmy "The Weasel" Fratianno ‘flipped’ and wore a wire on James Licavoli, then the Godfather of the Cleveland Mafia Family. On the tapes, Licavoli brags that the Family has a mole in the Cleveland office of the FBI who had provided information leading to the names of two FBI Informants, Tony Hughes and Curly Montana. Licavoli was trying to find out the names of the other two, not knowing at that time that Fratianno was one of them.
Licavoli then mentioned that John DiGilio had a similar mole in the FBI office in Newark, New Jersey, who had smuggled information identifying two FBI Informants for that office. Both men, one of whom was Frank Chin, were murdered.
The story of Godfather Licavoli and his associates is best told in the books ‘The Last Mafioso’ by Ovid Demaris and ‘To Kill the Irishman’ by Rick Porrello.
THE CHARLIE CARABBIA AFFAIR
Although members of the American Mafia had been engaged in blackmail and extortion schemes for many decades, rarely was a member of the Mob charged in a blackmail plot. Thus, this method of the Mob went for decades under-reported by the Media. In 1983, the art of Mafia blackmail was revealed in a Federal Court in Cleveland, when an Ohio Sheriff was placed on trial for accepting bribes from the Mafia. The Defendant was James Traficant of Youngstown, arguably the most corrupt medium-size city in America. During the trial, Prosecutors played secretly-recorded tapes that revealed a Mafia blackmail plot. The tapes were made by Charlie "The Crab" Carabbia, a Cleveland Mafia family member who had given Traficant $98,000 in bribe money as ‘campaign contributions’ while Traficant ran his race for Sheriff, which proved to be successful. After the election but before Traficant took office, Carabbia called for a meeting with the Sheriff-elect. Carabbia was concerned because his gambling operations in Youngstown competed with rival operations of the Pittsburgh Mafia family, which had contributed $65,000 to Traficant as bribes. Charlie the Crab wanted to ensure that Traficant would protect his operations and the best way to do that, Carabbia thought, was to secretly tape-record Traficant admitting taking bribes, and thus he could blackmail Traficant into compliance, should that become necessary. Carabbia’s concerns echoed those of many who had investigated Traficant, who believed his loyalties lay with the Pittsburgh Family, whom it was believed had recruited Traficant years earlier into a ‘points-shaving’ gambling scheme when Traficant was the quarterback of the University of Pittsburgh football team.
On the tapes, Traficant attempts to allay Charlie the Crab of his fears. "I am a loyal !!!!!" Traficant tells Carabbia reassuringly on one tape, "and my loyalty is here!" (with the Cleveland Mafia Family) "And now we’ve gotta set up the business that they’ve (Pittsburgh) run for all these !!!!!!! years and swing that business over to you . . .That’s why you financed me!"
Traficant and The Crab then talk about how Traficant laundered $10,000 of the Mob’s money through the law firm of Ed Flask, the son of a prominent Youngstown politician. When Traficant expresses his concern that Flask knows that he has been bribed by the Mob, Charlie the Crab tells Traficant not to worry, as he has in his possession "prejudicial, compromising photographs of Flask which would ensure his silence!" "Do you know what kind of pictures I’m talking about?" The Crab asks Traficant.
The tapes show that Traficant is deeply troubled by the revelation that Carabbia is blackmailing his friend Flask. Just days after this conversation, Charlie Carabbia was abducted and murdered by members of the Pittsburgh Mafia Family. Carabbia’s body has never been found. Traficant, later a United States Congressman, and Flask, would be convicted on Federal charges as the result of a sweep by the Feds of the Youngstown area during the past several years.
THE GARY HART AFFAIR
In May, 1987, the Miami Herald published a story alleging Presidential candidate Gary Hart was involved in an affair with a young model. Hart denied the story and the reporters for the Herald were blasted by some members of the Media. Hart, however, had opened himself up for potential blackmail by indiscriminately posing for photographs with the woman in question. When photos of the two surfaced in the Media, Hart quickly withdrew from the race. The decision by the Miami Herald to go with this story marked a permanent departure from the days when journalists covered-up the personal lives of public figures.
THE ROSS PEROT AFFAIR
In May, 1993, several disgruntled officials of the Ross Perot organization UNITED WE STAND went public with their complaints on NBC's DATELINE and ABC's NIGHTLINE. Charges that Ross Perot hired private detectives to spy on his employees and volunteers had led to investigations by the Secret Service, FBI, and Federal Trade Commission. Such tactics were among the motivations that prompted the former associates of Perot’s organization to come forward with their concerns. One complainant against Perot was later arrested on murder solicitation charges, charges that would be later dropped by the Feds after this reporter turned over secretly-taped evidence of government impropriety in that case. While some of those whom were spied upon by Perot’s operatives filed lawsuits in that regard, Ross Perot was never charged with a crime.
Perot had, in fact, been leading in the polls a year earlier until he suddenly withdrew from the Presidential race. When he got back in a few months later he told 60 MINUTES that he had been blackmailed by Republican covert operatives who had fabricated "compromising photographs" of his daughter and another woman that they planned to release to disrupt his daughter’s Wedding that Summer. Perot had asked his friends in the FBI to investigate and on August 6, 1992 one Scott Barnes was photographed by the FBI offering ‘secretly recorded phone conversations of Ross Perot’ to Jim Oberwetter, the senior official in charge of George Bush’s Texas re-election campaign. According to Gerald Posner’s acclaimed biography, ‘Citizen Perot,‘ Oberwetter wouldn’t accept Barnes’ tapes, but instead suggested he take them to editors of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram newspaper, whom Oberwetter said would likely be interested since Perot had in his possession "a picture of one of their reporters in a compromising position with someone from City Hall!"
The FBI would later send a wired FBI undercover agent to once again entice Oberwetter with ‘secret tapes of Perot,’ but once again Oberwetter refused to accept them. When the FBI reported back to Perot that they could not prove the ‘Republican conspiracy’ against Perot and his daughter, Perot was furious and months later would ‘expose’ this conspiracy to the American people on 60 MINUTES. Perot came off as irrational and paranoid and lost his credibility with the American people. He would never get it back.
Scott Barnes, the man who claimed the Republicans had "compromising photographs" of Perot's daughter was a dress shop owner who in 1989 was convicted of illegally taping phone conversations. In 1997 Barnes admitted the "Republican conspiracy" against Perot was a hoax that he had concocted.
THE GARDEN STATE AFFAIR
During the 1990s and into the new Millennium, numerous politicians and their associates from the State of New Jersey became caught up in scandals that primarily dealt with campaign finance irregularities. Key among these were Senator Robert Torricelli and Governor James McGreevey and their mutual top fundraiser, real estate mogul Charles Kushner. By the time the scandals had run their course, Torricelli and McGreevey would quit their political careers and Kushner would plead guilty to campaign finance violations as well as blackmailing his own sister and her husband with a secretly-recorded sex tape.
Robert Torricelli was born in New Jersey in 1951. His father, Salvatore, was a lawyer from Corleone, Sicily. Torricelli followed in his family traditions, obtaining a law degree from Rutgers in 1977 and a Masters in Public Administration from Harvard in 1980. In 1982 Torricelli was elected to Congress. Torricelli quickly received notoriety because of his championing of conspiracy theories about the Central Intelligence Agency; in 1995 Torricelli claimed the CIA was involved in a conspiracy to cover-up the actions of an alleged asset in Guatemala accused of complicity in two murders; in 1996 Torricelli claimed the CIA was conspiring against him by offering assistance to his Republican opponent in their U. S. Senate race.
The first investigation of Torricelli was launched not by the FBI but rather a public interest watchdog group, Common Cause. In 1990 Common Cause released a report on ‘Torricelli PAC,’ a Political Action Committee set up by Torricelli in New Jersey. The Common Cause report detailed how Torricelli spent $147,000 of ‘Torricelli PAC’ funds during 1987-1990 on such items as speeding tickets of his Aides, dues for Torricelli’s private Club, The Harvard Club, meals in fancy restaurants, overseas trips, gifts for friends from upscale Department Stores, and over $1,300 in florists bills. The contributor listed who gave the most money to ‘Torricelli PAC’ was a businessman with a controversial background, Grover Connell, who gave Torricelli $35,000.
Grover Connell is a multi-millionaire with business interests in agricultural commodities and real estate who has donated millions of dollars to politicians during the last four decades. In 1978 Connell was indicted by the Feds for his role in the infamous "Koreagate" scandal in which several members of Congress were caught on videotape accepting bribes from Korean officials. Charges against Connell were eventually dropped.
A loan to Torricelli by Connell of $100,000 in 1992 would lead to the first of many investigations of Torricelli, according to a report by John Solomon of the Associated Press. Torricelli used the money to invest in a new financial institution owned by friends, First Savings Bank. The loan was unsecured, meaning Torricelli would not have to pay it back if he defaulted. This deal between friends gave the Congressman a quick profit of $144,000.
Concerned that Torricelli may have broken Federal laws in the Connell/First Bank deal, FBI agents in New Jersey began an investigation, eventually questioning Torricelli Under Oath in 1995. However, as reported by the Associated Press, officials in the U. S. Attorney’s office in Newark turned down several FBI subpoena requests for documents, which the agents perceived to be stonewalling by that office to the benefit of Torricelli. The U. S. Attorney in Newark, Faith Hochberg would later recuse herself from the investigation once she was nominated as a Federal Judge, a position Torricelli lobbied for her to receive, and the case was assigned to her Deputy Robert Cleary. Torricelli later used his political influence to lobby for the promotion of Cleary as U. S. Attorney. Frustrated FBI agents then took the unusual step of turning over evidence from their stymied probe to the Senate Judiciary Committee, which conducts investigations into the nominations of Judges and U. S. Attorneys.
In 1995 Torricelli began his campaign for a seat in the U. S. Senate, waging a bitter and controversial contest against his opponent while utilizing a variety of fundraisers of various backgrounds to assemble his war chest. One fundraiser for the Torricelli Senate campaign was the $2,000 a plate event held at the home of convicted felon Francis Walsh, owner of Walsh Trucking Company. In 1988 Walsh was indicted in a landmark prosecution of the Teamsters Union and the Genovese Mafia Family. The indictments listed a veritable "Who’s Who" of mobsters, including Genovese Family Godfather "Fat Tony" Salerno, capo "Matty the Horse" Ianniello, Vincent "Fish" Cafaro, James "The Little Guy" Ida, and Teamsters officials Tony Provenzano and Stephen Andretta. Provenzano has been identified by the FBI as the person responsible for the abduction and murder of former Teamsters President Jimmy Hoffa.
In 1996 Torricelli was caught on an FBI wiretap soliciting contributions over a telephone at a Florida pizza parlor under surveillance for suspected Mafia ties, the Associated Press’ John Solomon would later report. Among those captured speaking with Torricelli were Francis and Sam Roti, the nephews of Fred Roti, a Chicago politician convicted in 1993 of racketeering, bribery, and extortion with members of the Chicago Mafia Family and the Laborers Union. On the FBI tapes Torricelli asks for $1,000 contributions from the Rotis and their associates and the Rotis then suggest that their native Chicago would be a good place for Torricelli to raise funds, even though Chicago is a thousand miles away from the constituents in New Jersey Torricelli would represent.
Nicolas Castronuovo, the owner of the pizza parlor and his grandson Nicholas Melone later pleaded guilty to evading the government of $100,000 in taxes, according to a Miami Herald-Tribune report. Sam Roti was indicted in 1993 on Federal tax charges, which were later dropped, according to an ABC News report.
Two years after this tapped pizza parlor conversation, a Federal Task Force investigating Torricelli and his finances was ready to announce the first of several indictments of individuals involved in Torricelli’s campaign finances. Those eventually indicted for these crimes were:
After Chang pleaded guilty, the foreign money manipulator made a series of startling allegations regarding Torricelli, including his claim that Torricelli advised him to flee America to escape prosecution once the Federal investigations had started. In addition to the thousands of dollars of contributions, the New York Times reported that Chang told investigators he gave Torricelli an $8,000 Rolex watch, 10 Italian made suits worth thousands of dollars, and other gifts of cash and goods. Torricelli angrily denied Chang’s allegations.
When Chang was sentenced to prison, documents became public which alleged that in January, 2001, Torricelli and another man followed Chang into a 7-11 convenience store in Ft. Lee, New Jersey in an apparent attempt to threaten Chang into not co-operating with the on-going Federal investigation of Torricelli’s fund raising ventures. Chang averted the confrontation by slipping out the back door of the store. The next day agents of the FBI confiscated the store’s surveillance videotape which reportedly shows Chang followed into the store by Torricelli and his associate. To date, the mystery man who accompanied Torricelli has only been described in Media reports as a contractor in the waste disposal industry.
In April 2001 agents of the U. S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan searched Senator Torricelli’s home in New Jersey. Torricelli admitted in a television interview that his attorneys personally escorted the agents through his home to assure them that there were no documents or items in his residence of interest to their investigation.
In response to the growing investigations of Torricelli campaign financiers, Torricelli founded in 2000 a separate Legal Defense Fund. One of the first controversial associates of Torricelli to donate money to this fund was Charles Kushner, whom, with 3 relatives, each contributed $10,000. Grover Connell also donated the maximum $10,000 to Torricelli’s defense fund.
According to Federal Election Commission documents, waste management contractors Frank and Peter DiTommaso also contributed $10,000 to this fund. Their gift is even more generous given the statement issued by a spokesperson for the Senator, who alleged Torricelli does not even know these two men. At the time of the donations, the DiTommaso brothers, owners of Interstate Industrial Corporation, were the subjects of a Federal, New York City, and New Jersey Casino Control Commission investigation into allegations of ties to the American Mafia.
The Federal investigation of the DiTommaso brothers concerned their purchase of a Staten Island waste disposal station controlled by Edward Garafola, who is married to the sister of former Gambino Family Underboss Sammy "The Bull" Gravano. Garafola was indicted in March 2000 along with Lawrence Ray, an executive of the DiTommaso brothers’ Interstate Industrial Corporation, and Daniel Persico, nephew of Colombo Family Godfather Carmine "The Snake" Persico, on Federal charges involving a $40 million stock ‘pump and dump’ scam. Interstate Industrial Corporation was also denied a contract by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in 2000 to perform work on an Atlantic City gambling casino.
The Washington Post would later report that Torricelli had spent an incredible $1.5 million on lawyers defending him in the various investigations, despite the fact that the Senator had not yet been charged with a crime. In the end, Senator Torricelli was not charged with a crime, but resigned from his bid for re-election after his poll numbers plummeted as a result of the intense Media scrutiny of his finances. Some of the information that negatively impacted on Torricelli was first widely reported by AmericanMafia.com.
As Robert Torricelli’s political career was eclipsing, James McGreevey’s star was rising. McGreevey was born in Jersey City in 1957. McGreevey earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Columbia University, a law degree from Georgetown University, and a Master’s Degree from Harvard. The New Jersey native was elected Mayor of Woodbridge in 1991 and served in the State Assembly in 1990-91 and the State Senate from 1994-1997.
In the year 2000, Mayor McGreevey was among a delegation of New Jersey officials who made a pilgrimage to Israel. It was there that McGreevey met Golan Cipel, a former Israeli Naval Officer. Cipel knew the New York-New Jersey area well, having graduated from the New York Institute of Technology and having worked as a spokesperson for the Israeli Consulate in New York.
McGreevey’s top fundraiser Charles Kushner then sponsored Cipel for a temporary Work Visa and gave Cipel a job as a public relations consultant. Cipel worked as a campaign advisor to McGreevey during the Mayor’s successful bid to win the Governor’s position during the elections of 1991. Once Governor, McGreevey attempted to name Cipel as the Director for Homeland Security for the State at a taxpayer-funded salary of $110,000 a year. State Republicans balked, noting that Cipel was not qualified for this sensitive position. The FBI then refused to give Cipel a security clearance, noting that he was a foreign national.
Newly elected Governor McGreevey also appointed Charles Kushner to the Board of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the agency that conceived and built the World Trade Center. McGreevey then lobbied to have Kushner named Chairman of the agency. Once again, Republican lawmakers both in New Jersey and Washington stopped the Governor from this clear act of patronage.
The Kushner nomination by McGreevey was just one of many actions taken by the Governor early on in his Administration that attracted the attention of his political rivals, as well as members of the Media and law enforcement. By the start of the Summer of 2004, the results of McGreevey’s machinations had coalesced into events that would quickly lead to his downfall .
On June 16, 2004 Federal authorities in Manhattan indicted Gary Taffet on numerous charges of Insider trading. Taffet was McGreevey’s former Chief of Staff.
On July 7, McGreevey fundraiser David D’Amiano was indicted on extortion charges, alleging he demanded money from a New Jersey farmer in exchange for a promise to obtain a favorable deal for the sale of the farmer’s land to a State-funded farmland preservation program. Governor McGreevey admitted to the Media that he was the "State Official 1" referred to in the indictment. McGreevey admitted to using the word "Machiavelli" in a conversation with the farmer, but claimed it was just a literary reference and not the ‘code word’ "Machiavelli" D’Amiano had said would signal a government official’s participation in the extortion plot.
The Governor has claimed he was simply referring to the best-seller "The Prince" written by Niccolo Machiavelli in the 16th Century. This book is considered a classic treatise on the ruthless, cold-blooded tactics politicians must resort to in order to deceive and manipulate their constituents in order to maintain power over them.
On July 13, 2004 Charles Kushner was indicted by the Feds in Newark on charges that he violated campaign finance laws. Kushner was also charged with obtaining the services of a prostitute who was videotaped having sex with the husband of Kushner’s sister. Kushner then had the videotape sent to his sister in an attempt to blackmail his sibling and her husband from testifying against Kushner before a Federal Grand Jury investigating his illegal campaign contributions.
Kushner then hired famed attorney Benjamin Brafman to fight the charges, which Brafman categorically denied to the Media were true. Brafman is renown for his defense of Sammy the Bull Gravano, Vincent Gigante, and many other members of the American Mafia.
On August 12 Governor McGreevey stunned a nationwide television audience when he announced he was gay and would resign from office. The Media quickly identified Golan Cipel as the man McGreevey claimed he had an affair with. McGreevey officials were also quick to accuse Cipel of trying to blackmail the Governor. Cipel then fled to Israel and denied he was gay and tried to portray himself as someone who had been sexually harassed by Governor McGreevey.
Law enforcement sources then told the Media that the FBI was investigating the blackmail charges. Then, came further details of the story that caught the interest of the national Media. At first, attorneys for Cipel were alleged to have demanded millions of dollars from McGreevey in exchange for his not filing a sexual harassment lawsuit. Then, just hours before McGreevey called his press conference, Cipel’s demands allegedly included help by the Governor in allowing Touro College to build a campus in New Jersey. Among the members of the Board of this Medical institute are Charles Kushner, with Robert Torricelli having been hired by the College to lobby on their behalf. An associate of Torricelli involved in the lobbying effort told the Media that neither he nor Torricelli had met with or spoken to Cipel.
Only 6 days after Governor McGreevey’s stunning announcement, Charles Kushner pleaded guilty to the campaign finance violations and blackmail charges involving his sister and her husband.
The New York Post reported on August 25 that Federal investigators do not expect to charge anyone with attempting to extort Governor McGreevey. State charges reportedly could be forwarded to officials in regards to official acts taken by Governor McGreevey in regards to his hiring practices of Cipel.
Whether or not the full story of the McGreevey affair has unfolded remains to be seen.
As in the case of public figures and the volatile mixture of illicit sexual encounters, some of these stories, such as that of J. Edgar Hoover, can take years, sometimes decades, before all the facts emerge. The late James Angleton, former head of Counter-Intelligence for the CIA, understood this concept, once remarking: "The past telescopes into the future!"
‘The Congressman, the Senator, and the Mafia’
‘Murder - American Style: Atypical Murder Cases and the Evolution of Organized Crime’
NBC Channel 4 News, New York
Copyright © 1998 - 2004 PLR International