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Yesterday, we reported that we hadn't heard a clear story from the Pentagon about how Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan. We started looking after a Fox News analyst claimed the soldier deserted (and therefore should be executed by the Taliban).

But last night, an NBC News correspondent reported that Pentagon officials are certain Bergdahl is not a deserter.

"Senior military and Pentagon officials, not only in Washington but there on the ground in Afghanistan, say there's no question he's not a deserter," said Jim Miklaszewski, NBC's Pentagon correspondent.

Video after the jump.

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The Democratic National Committee has launched this new TV ad on national and D.C. cable, warning against the high costs involved in the health care debate -- that is, the cost of not enacting reform:

"What's the cost of not reforming our health care system?" the announcer asks. "Premiums rising faster than your paycheck; insurance companies dictating more and more medical decisions; denying you coverage, while their profits soar."

This is continuing a line of argument that President Obama made last night at the press conference, presenting the continuing status quo as an alternative plan that is inferior to his own proposals -- thus shifting the burden of proof in the argument.

Also notice the cast of villains in this ad: Michael Steele, Rush Limbaugh, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) -- and the new star, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC).

The right is now mobilizing heavily against President Obama's comments last night about the Henry Louis Gates case.

The NRCC has sent out a press release, challenging individual House Dems about whether they agree with Obama that the police "acted stupidly":

The president was slow to point out any wrongdoing in the wake of the Iranian election and his administration was quick to force through a failed stimulus plan even though they 'misread' the economy. This is certainly a questionable rush to judgment coming from a president who hasn't exactly been quick to call out unconscionable behavior by a merciless foreign dictator or gotten his facts straight before advocating a trillion-dollar mistake to address our ailing economy. Is it really presidential for him to cast harsh judgment of a law enforcement official without all the facts?

Meanwhile, Rush Limbaugh is being much more blunt in a racial appeal:

"Last week, we saw white firefighters under assault by agents of Barack Obama and Sonia Sotomayor," said Limbaugh (emphasis his). He added: "Now, white policemen are under assault from the East Room of the White House, by the President of the United States, after admitting he had no -- he didn't know all the facts, what went on in there."

Remarks of President Barack Obama - As Prepared for Delivery

Health Care Town Hall

Shaker Heights, Ohio

July 23, 2009

It's good to be back in the great state of Ohio. I know there are those who like to focus on the political back and forth in Washington. But my only concern is the people who sent us there: the families feeling the pain of this recession; the folks I've met across this country who have lost jobs and savings and health insurance, but haven't lost hope; the citizens who defied the cynics and the skeptics - who went to the polls to demand real and lasting change. This change was the cause of my campaign, and it is the cause of my presidency.

When my administration came into office, we were facing the worst economy since the Great Depression. We were losing an average of 700,000 jobs per month. Hundreds of thousands of Ohioans have felt that painful loss first-hand. Our financial system was on the verge of collapse, meaning families and small businesses could not get the credit they need. And experts were warning that there was a serious chance that our economy could slip into a depression. But because of the action we took in those first weeks, we have been able to pull our economy back from the brink.

Now that the most immediate danger has passed, there are some who question those steps. So let me report to you on exactly what we've done.

We passed a two-year Recovery Act that meant an immediate tax cut for 95 percent of Americans and for small businesses. It extended unemployment insurance and health coverage for those who lost their jobs in this recession, and provided emergency assistance to the states to prevent even deeper layoffs of police, firefighters, teachers and other essential personnel. At the same time, we took needed steps to keep the banking system from collapsing, to get credit flowing again, and to help responsible homeowners - hurt by falling home prices - to stay in their homes.

In the second phase, we now are investing in projects to repair and upgrade roads, bridges, ports, and water systems - and in schools and clean energy initiatives throughout Ohio and the country. These are projects that are creating good jobs and bring lasting improvements to our communities and our country.

There is no doubt that the steps we have taken have helped stave off a much deeper disaster and even greater job loss. They have saved and helped create jobs and have begun to put the brakes on this devastating recession. But I know that for the millions of Americans who are looking for work, and all those who are struggling in this economy, full recovery can't come soon enough. I hear from you at town hall meetings like this. I read your letters. These stories are the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about at night - and the focus of my attention every day. The simple truth is that it took years for us to get into this mess, and it will take more than a few months to dig our way out of it. But we will get there, and we are doing everything within our power to get people back to work.

We also have to do more than just rescue this economy from recession; we need to address the fundamental problems that allowed this crisis to happen in the first place. Otherwise, we'd be guilty of the same short term thinking that got us into this mess. That's what Washington has done for decades. That's what we must change.

Now is the time to rebuild this economy stronger than before. Strong enough to compete in the 21st century. Strong enough to avoid the waves of boom and bust that have, time and again, unleashed a torrent of misfortune on middle class families across this country. That's why we are building a new, clean energy economy that will unleash the innovative potential of America's entrepreneurs - and create millions of new jobs - helping to end our dependence on foreign oil. We are transforming our education system, from cradle to college, so that this nation once again has the best-educated workforce in the world. And we are pursuing health insurance reform so that every American has access to quality, affordable health coverage.

I want to be clear: reform isn't just about the nearly 46 million Americans without health insurance. Though I realize that with all the charges and criticisms being thrown around in Washington, many Americans may be wondering, "How does my family, or my business, stand to benefit from health insurance reform? What's in this for me?"

I want to answer those questions today.

If you already have health insurance, the reform we're proposing will give you more security. It will keep the government out of your health care decisions, giving you the option to keep your coverage if you're happy with it. And it will keep the insurance companies out of your health care decisions, too, by stopping insurers from cherry-picking who they cover, and holding insurers to higher standards for what they cover.

You won't have to worry about receiving a surprise bill in the mail, because we'll limit the amount your insurance company can force you to pay out of your own pocket.

You won't have to worry about pre-existing conditions, because never again will anyone in America be denied coverage because of a previous illness or injury.

And you won't have to worry about losing coverage if you lose or leave your job, because every American who needs insurance will have access to affordable plans through a health insurance exchange - a marketplace where insurance companies will compete to cover you, not to deny you coverage.

If you run a small business and you're looking to provide insurance for your employees, you'll be able to choose a plan through this exchange as well. I've heard from small business owners across America trying to do the right thing, but year after year, premiums rise higher and choices grow more limited. That's certainly the case here in Ohio.

And if you are a taxpayer concerned about deficits, I want to reassure you, I am too In the eight years before we came to office, Washington enacted two large tax cuts, primarily for the wealthiest Americans, added a prescription drug benefit to Medicare, and funded two wars, without paying for any of it. The national debt doubled, and we were handed a $1.3 trillion deficit when we walked in the door - one we necessarily had to add to in the short term to help break the back of the recession. I believe we have to restore a sense of responsibility in Washington. We have to do what families and businesses do, cutting the things we don't need to pay for the things we do.

That is why I have pledged that I will not sign health insurance reform that adds even one dime to our deficit over the next decade. And I mean it. We have estimated that two-thirds of the cost of reform to bring health care security to every American can be paid for by reallocating money that is simply being wasted in federal health care programs. This includes more than one hundred billion dollars in unwarranted subsidies that go to insurance companies as part of Medicare - subsidies that do nothing to improve care for our seniors. We ought to take that money and use to actually treat people and cover people, not line the pockets of the insurers. I'm pleased that Congress has already embraced these proposals. And while they are currently working through proposals to finance the remaining costs, I continue to insist that health reform not be paid for on the backs of middle-class families.

In addition to making sure that this plan doesn't add to the deficit in the short-term, the bill I sign must also slow the growth of health care costs, while improving care, in the long run. I just came from the Cleveland Clinic where I toured the cardiac surgery unit and met some of the doctors and nurses achieving incredible results for their patients; there's important work being done there as well as at University Hospitals and MetroHealth. Cleveland Clinic has one of the best health information technology systems in the country. This means that they can track patients and their progress. This means that they can see what treatments work and what treatments are unnecessary. And this means they can provide better care to patients with chronic disease like diabetes, high blood pressure, asthma, and emphysema by coordinating with doctors and nurses both in the hospital and in the community.

And this is the remarkable thing: often better care produces lower, not higher, expenses. Because better care leads to fewer errors that cost money and lives. You, or your doctor, don't have to fill out the same form a dozen times. Medical professionals are free to treat people - not just illnesses. And patients are provided preventive care earlier - like mammograms and physicals - to avert more expensive and invasive treatment later.

That's why our proposals include a variety of reforms that would both save money and improve care - and why the nation's largest organizations representing doctors and nurses have embraced our plan. Our proposals would change incentives so that doctors and nurses are finally free to give patients the best care, not just the most expensive care. We also want to create an independent group of doctors and medical experts who are empowered to eliminate waste and inefficiency in Medicare - a proposal that could save even more money. Overall, our proposals will improve the quality of care for our seniors and save them thousands of dollars on prescription drugs, which is why the AARP has endorsed our reform efforts.

The fact is, lowering costs is essential for families and businesses - and our economy. Here in Ohio, for example, over the past few years premiums have risen nearly nine times as fast as wages. That's something Rick and his wife are very familiar with. As we meet today, we're seeing double-digit rate increases on insurance premiums all over America. There are reports of insurers raising rates by 28 percent in California; seeking a 23 percent increase in Connecticut; and proposing as much as a 56 percent increase in Michigan. If we don't act, these premium hikes will be just a preview of coming attractions. That's a future you can't afford. That's a future America can't afford.

We spend one of every six of our dollars on health care in America, and that's on track to double in the next three decades. The biggest driving force behind our federal deficit is the skyrocketing cost of Medicare and Medicaid. Small businesses struggle to cover workers while competing with large businesses. Large businesses struggle to cover workers while competing in the global economy. And we will never know the full cost of the dreams put on hold, the entrepreneurial ideas allowed to languish, the small businesses never founded - because of the fear of being without insurance, or having to pay for a policy on your own.

That is why we seek reform. And in pursuit of this reform we have forged a consensus that has never before been reached in the history of this country. Senators and Representatives in five committees are working on legislation and three have already produced bills. Health care providers have agreed to do their part to reduce the rate of growth in health care spending. Hospitals have agreed to bring down costs. The drug companies have agreed to make prescription drugs more affordable for seniors. And the American Nurses Association and the American Medical Association, which represent the millions of nurses and doctors who know our health care system best, have announced their support for reform.

We have never been closer to achieving quality, affordable health care for all Americans. But at the same time, there are those who seek to delay and defeat reform. I've heard that one Republican strategist told his party that even though they may want to compromise, it's better politics to "go for the kill." Another Republican senator said that defeating health reform is about "breaking" me - when it's really the American people who are being broken by rising health care costs and declining coverage. And the Republican Party chair, seeking to stall our efforts, recently went so far as to say that health insurance reform was happening "too soon."

I thought that was a little odd. We've been talking about health reform since the days of Harry Truman, and he's saying reform is coming too soon. Too soon?

I don't think it's too soon for the families who've seen their premiums rise faster than wages year after year.

It's not too soon for the businesses forced to drop coverage or shed workers because of mounting health care expenses.

It's not too soon for taxpayers asked to close widening deficits that stem from rising health care costs, costs that threaten to leave our children with a mountain of debt.

Reform may be coming too soon for some in Washington, but it's not soon enough for the American people.

We can do this. For this nation never shrinks from a challenge. And we were reminded of that earlier this week, when Americans - and people all over the world - marked the fortieth anniversary of the moment that the astronauts of Apollo 11 walked upon the surface of the moon. It was the realization of a goal President Kennedy had set nearly a decade earlier. There were those at that time who said it was foolish, even impossible. But President Kennedy understood, and the American people set about proving, what this nation was capable of doing when we set our minds to doing it.

Today, there are those who see our failure to address stubborn problems as a sign that our best days are behind us; that somehow we've lost that sense of purpose, that toughness, that capacity to lead. Well I believe that this generation, like generations past, stands ready to defy the naysayers and the skeptics. That we can once again summon this American spirit. That we can rescue our economy and rebuild it stronger than before. And that, yes, we can achieve quality, affordable health care for every single American. That is what we are called upon to do. And that is what we will do.

When Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) was originally running for Senate, a lot of people doubted that he would be able to effectively reach across the other side of the aisle and work with Republicans. But, as we can see from his first major initiative, he's already getting a start on that.

In the last few days, Franken announced a proposal to fund service dogs for disabled veterans. And it turns out, from a press release his office put out yesterday, that his main co-sponsor is a Republican Senator, Johnny Isakson of Georgia.

Franken really has come a long way since 2003, when he wrote Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them. "But, you know what, I don't want to get into a whole partisan politics thing here," he wrote at the time. "Not in this book, anyway. We'll leave that for my next book, I F------ Hate Those Right-Wing Motherf-----s!, due out in October 2004."

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says there will be no health care vote before August recess. According to the Associated Press, Reid says the Finance Committee will finish its legislation soon, and its bill will be merged with the HELP Committee's bill, before the Senate adjourns in two weeks.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Thursday the Finance Committee will act on its portion of the bill before Congress' monthlong break. Then Reid will merge that bill with separate legislation already passed by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

The Nevada Democrat says the decision to delay a vote was made Wednesday night in the hopes of getting a final bipartisan bill.

\Reid also veered off the President's script. "The Republicans have asked for more time, and I don't think it's unreasonable," Reid said.

President Obama has been pretty clear in recent days that Republican calls for more time are rooted in a desire to kill the legislation--a gambit which he characterizes as an endorsement of the status quo. But, for now, they appear to be getting their way.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs told reports that President Obama does not regret his comments last night about the arrest of Prof. Henry Louis Gates -- and that Obama was not calling the officers stupid.

"Let me be clear," said Gibbs. "He was not calling the officer stupid, okay? He was denoting that . . . at a certain point the situation got far out of hand, and I think all sides understand that."

The following is an official press release from the Department of Justice on today's charges of public corruption, money laundering and brokering the sale of human organs.

NEWARK, N.J. - The mayors of Hoboken, Secaucus and Ridgefield, the Jersey City deputy mayor and council president, two state assemblymen, numerous other public officials and political figures and five rabbis from New York and New Jersey were among 44 individuals charged today in a two-track federal investigation of public corruption and a high-volume, international money laundering conspiracy, Acting U.S. Attorney Ralph J. Marra, Jr., announced.

Among those charged in criminal Complaints are:

• Peter Cammarano III, the newly elected mayor of Hoboken and an attorney, charged with accepting $25,000 in cash bribes, including $10,000 last Thursday, from an undercover cooperating witness.

• L. Harvey Smith, a New Jersey Assemblyman and recent mayoral candidate in Jersey City, charged along with an aide of taking $15,000 in bribes to help get approvals from high-level state agency officials for building projects.

• Daniel Van Pelt, a New Jersey Assemblyman, charged with accepting a $10,000 bribe.

• Dennis Elwell, mayor of Secaucus, charged with taking a $10,000 cash bribe.

• Anthony Suarez, mayor of Ridgefield and an attorney, charged with agreeing to accept a $10,000 corrupt cash payment for his legal defense fund.

• Louis Manzo, the recent unsuccessful challenger in the Jersey City mayoral election and former state Assemblyman, and his brother and political advisor Robert Manzo, both with taking $27,500 in corrupt cash payments for use in Louis Manzo's campaign.

• Leona Beldini, the Jersey City deputy mayor and a campaign treasurer, charged with taking $20,000 in conduit campaign contributions and other self-dealing in her official capacity.

• Eliahu Ben Haim, of Long Branch, N.J., the principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal, N.J., charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.

• Saul Kassin, of Brooklyn, N.Y., the chief rabbi of a synagogue in Brooklyn, New York, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.

• Edmund Nahum, of Deal, N.J., the principal rabbi of a synagogue in Deal, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity.

• Mordchai Fish, of Brooklyn, N.Y., a rabbi at a synagogue in Brooklyn, charged with money laundering of proceeds derived from criminal activity. His brother, also a rabbi, was charged as well.

Most of the defendants were arrested early this morning by a large contingent of federal agents, led by Special Agents of the FBI Newark Division and IRS Criminal Investigation Division (See addendum of defendants, charges and arrest status). Court-authorized search warrants were also being executed approximately 20 locations in New Jersey and New York, to recover, among other things, large sums of cash and other evidence of criminal conduct. Additionally, 28 seizure warrants were being executed against bank accounts in the names of the money laundering defendants and entities they control.

One criminal Complaint charges a Brooklyn man, Levy Izhak Rosenbaum, with conspiring to broker the sale of a human kidney for a transplant, at a cost of $160,000 to the transplant recipient. According to the Complaint, Rosenbaum said he had been brokering the sale of kidneys for 10 years.

Those charged in the public corruption investigation are scheduled to begin making appearances today in federal court in Newark at 2 p.m. before U.S. Magistrate Judge Madeline Cox Arleo. Those charged in the money laundering investigation, are scheduled to begin making initial appearances thereafter before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Falk.

Law enforcement personnel, with the assistance of a cooperating witness, first infiltrated a pre-existing money laundering network that operated internationally between Brooklyn, Deal, N.J. and Israel and laundered at least tens of millions of dollars through charitable, non-profit entities controlled by rabbis in New York and New Jersey.

The cooperating witness told targets of the money laundering investigation that he was involved in illegal businesses and bank frauds. He also openly discussed with targets that he was in bankruptcy and was attempting to conceal cash and assets, and told them he wanted to launder criminal proceeds in increments ranging from tens of thousands of dollars to $150,000 or more at a time, often at the rate of several transactions per week. According to the criminal Complaints, the money laundering operations run by the rabbis laundered a total of approximately $3 million for the cooperating witness alone between about June 2007 and July 2009.

The investigation veered onto its public corruption track in July 2007 in Hudson County, where the cooperating witness represented himself to be a developer and owner of a tile business who wanted to build high rises and other projects and get public contracts in Hudson County schools. Through an intermediary, the cooperating witness was introduced to a Jersey City building inspector who, in return for $40,000 in bribes, promised to smooth the way for approvals of the cooperating witness's building projects, according to the criminal Complaints.

From there, introductions and referrals spread amongst a web of public officials, council and mayoral candidates, their operatives and associates - mostly in Hudson County, and primarily in Jersey City - who took bribes. In return, they pledged their official assistance in getting the cooperating witness's projects prioritized and approved or to steer contracts to him.

In part, the bribe-taking was connected to fund raising efforts in heavily contested mayoral and city council campaigns in Jersey City and Hoboken, and the bribes were often parceled out to straw donors, who then wrote checks in their names or businesses to the campaigns in amounts that complied with legal limits on individual donations - so-called conduit or conversion donations. Other bribe recipients took cash for direct personal use and benefit; others kept some of the cash and used the rest for political campaigns, according to the criminal Complaints.

The investigation produced hundreds of hours of video and audio recordings documenting much of the money laundering and bribe-taking.

"This investigation has once again identified a corrupt network of public officials who were all too willing to take cash in exchange for promised official action," said Marra. "It seemed that everyone wanted a piece of the action. The corruption was widespread and pervasive."

"In both parts of this investigation," Marra said, "respected figures in positions of public and private trust engaged in conduct behind closed doors that belied the faces of honesty, integrity and rectitude they displayed daily to their respective constituencies."

"The list of names and titles of those arrested today sounds like a roster for a community leaders meeting," said Weysan Dun, Special Agent In Charge of the FBI in Newark. "Sadly, these prominent individuals were not in a meeting room but were in the FBI booking room this morning. We hope that our actions today will be the clarion call that prompts significant change in the way business and politics are conducted in the State of New Jersey. Those who engage in this culture of corruption should know the cross hairs of justice will continue to be focused on them."

"Traditional money laundering used to be confined to narcotics traffickers and organized crime," said Julio La Rosa, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division (CID). "Based on the allegations contained in today's complaints, money laundering has no boundaries and impacts every segment of our society."

The investigation is the third phase of the FBI, IRS-CID and U.S. Attorney's Office "Bid Rig" investigations that began first in Monmouth and Ocean counties in New Jersey. The initial investigation became public in 2002 with the guilty plea of Ocean Township mayor Terrence Weldon, who admitted extorting cash from developers to influence approval of projects. The second Bid Rig phase resulted in the arrests in February 2005 of 11 sitting and former mayors and other elected officials in Monmouth County. Those public officials took bribes from someone they believed was a contractor and money launderer seeking municipal work but who was, in fact, an undercover cooperating witness.

The Money Laundering Investigation

The money laundering conspiracy involved high-ranking religious figures and their associates in Brooklyn, N.Y. and Deal, N.J. Among them was Eliahu Ben Haim, of Long Branch, N.J., the principal rabbi of Congregation Ohel Yaacob in Deal, N.J. Typically, according to the criminal Complaints, Haim received bank checks in amounts ranging from tens of thousands of dollars up to $160,000 at a time made payable to a charitable, tax-exempt organization associated with Haim and his synagogue. To complete the money laundering cycle, Haim would return the amount of the check in cash to the cooperating witness, less a cut for Haim, typically 10 percent.

Haim's source of cash for funding the money laundering was, according to the Complaints, an Israeli in Israel who, Haim said, he had worked with for years. For a fee, that source would make cash available through other individuals charged today who ran cash houses in Brooklyn. Hundreds of thousands of dollars were regularly available from the cash houses for Haim to return to his money laundering clients, including the government's cooperating witness.

Similar circles of money launderers in Brooklyn and Deal, N.J. operated separately but occasionally co-mingled activities and participants. In most cases, the rings were led by rabbis who used charitable, non-profit entities connected to their synagogues to "wash" money that they understood came from criminal activity like bank fraud, counterfeit goods and other illegal sources, according to the criminal Complaints. Since such large amounts of cash were being transacted - tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars per transaction, often multiple times in a week - the rabbis made significant sums in fees, which typically ran between five and ten percent per transaction.

One of the other money laundering operations was allegedly led by Saul Kassin, a leading Brooklyn rabbi, and another by Edmund Nahum, the leader of a synagogue in Deal. In one secretly recorded conversation, Nahum tells the cooperating witness that he should launder his money through a number of rabbis. "The more it's spread the better," Nahum said, according to his criminal Complaint.

In another conversation, Kassin allegedly asked the cooperating witness - who at the moment was conducting a $25,000 transaction with Kassin - why he didn't do all his business with Haim. The cooperating witness replied that he had by that time already conducted between $600,000 and $700,000 in money laundering transactions with Haim.

Another group of alleged money launderers was led by Mordchai Fish, a rabbi at a Brooklyn synagogue. Fish's brother, Lavel Schwartz, a rabbi, was also charged with money laundering.

Also arrested today was Levi Deutsch, an Israeli living in Israel who, according to the Complaints, was a high-level source of cash from overseas for funding the bank checks that passed through charitable entities. Deutsch, who traveled frequently between Israel and New York, explained to the cooperating witness that the source of his cash was the "diamond business (and) other, other things," according to the Complaints. He further explained that he was associated with a Swiss banker who charged "two, three points" per $1 million laundered through him. (Deutsch is a different person than the Israeli working with Haim.)

Finally, another alleged money launderer was Moshe "Michael" Altman, a Hudson County real estate developer who, according to the criminal Complaints, "washed" more than $600,000 in dirty checks to cash for the cooperating witness through charitable, non-profit entities. Altman is also the intermediary who introduced the cooperating witness to Jersey City building inspector John Guarini, who allegedly took $20,000 from the cooperating witness in July 2007, and $40,000 in total over time. That initial bribe is what gave rise to the public corruption portion of the investigation.

The Public Corruption Investigation

Guarini introduced the cooperating witness to Maher A. Khalil, deputy director of the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services and a former member of the Jersey City Zoning Board of Adjustment. Khalil - who accepted $30,000 in cash payments from the cooperating witness - made key referrals that set in motion a kind of "corruption networking" amongst the defendants charged today, as well as others, Marra said. The investigation is continuing.

Introductions usually took place at diners and restaurants in Jersey City, Bayonne, Weehawken, Hoboken, Staten Island, Toms River, Atlantic City and elsewhere. Envelopes stuffed with cash were often passed from the cooperating witness to recipients or their intermediaries in parking lots after such meetings, according to the criminal Complaints.

Khalil pledged to the cooperating witness to make introductions only to "players" who would "do the right thing" by approving the cooperating witness's development plans in exchange for payments, according to his criminal Complaint. All along the way, each of the individuals charged allegedly took cash bribes up to $20,000 at a time - often numerous times - either taking the money outright or scheming to direct conduit payments through others to political campaigns in Jersey City or Hoboken. In each instance, the defendants acknowledged that, in exchange for the cash or cash campaign contributions, they would vote for and/or use their official influence to expedite and get approvals for the cooperating witness's projects.

Following are the individuals charged in the public corruption investigation, with the exception of Khalil and Guarini above, and summaries of their alleged conduct from the criminal Complaints (All defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt):

• Leona Beldini, deputy mayor of Jersey City and a realtor. Beldini planned to become broker for his purported 750-unit condominium project on Garfield Avenue, where units would sell for $500,000 each. Beldini, who was treasurer of a Jersey City official's re-election campaign (that official is identified only as Jersey City Official 4 in the Complaints), also accepted $20,000 in campaign donations, which she said would be divided between "donors" who would return the money to the campaign in increments of $2,600, the maximum individual donation allowed under law.

• Jack M. Shaw, a Hudson County political consultant. As described in the Complaint, he took $10,000 from the cooperating witness for himself and proposed that the cooperating witness pay $10,000 in campaign contributions for the re-election campaign of Jersey City Official 4.

• Edward Cheatam, the affirmative action officer for Hudson County, a commissioner with the Jersey City Housing Authority and, until May, vice president of the Jersey City Board of Education. Cheatam took $15,000 in cash bribes. (Khalil had introduced Cheatam to the cooperating witness; Cheatam then introduced Beldini and Shaw to the cooperating witness, all of whom then went on to extend introductions of the cooperating witness to many others.)

• Mariano Vega, Jr., the Jersey City council president. He met several times with the cooperating witness and ultimately accepted three $10,000 payments, two of which Vega instructed an intermediary to have broken down and converted into individual contributions for his re-election campaign and the third which he received after his election victory.

• Louis Manzo, a defeated candidate for Jersey City mayor, and his brother and political advisor, Ronald. Together, they accepted $27,500 in three cash payments intended for Louis Manzo's campaign. The cooperating witness was told that giving money to Louis Manzo was "insurance" to secure his influence for the cooperating witness in the event the incumbent for mayor lost.

• Lavern Webb-Washington, an unsuccessful candidate for the Jersey City council and a self-described housing activist. She accepted $15,000 in three cash installments of $5,000 for her political campaign.

• Lori Serrano, an unsuccessful candidate for the Jersey City council and former chair of the Jersey City Housing Authority. Serrano accepted $10,000 in two cash payments of $5,000 for her political campaign.

• James P. King, an unsuccessful candidate for Jersey City Council, former head of the Jersey City Parking Authority, former chairman of the Jersey City Incinerator Authority and a former Hudson County undersheriff. He accepted two payments of $5,000 each for his political campaign.

• Michael J. Manzo (no relation to the other Manzos), an unsuccessful candidate for Jersey City Council, and a Jersey City arson investigator. He agreed to accept a $5,000 cash payment from the cooperating witness for his campaign.

• Joseph Castagna, a health officer with the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services, and a close associate of Michael Manzo. Castagna took the $5,000 payment from the cooperating witness to pass to Michael Manzo.

• Dennis Jaslow, an investigator for the Hudson County Board of Elections and formerly a state corrections officer. Jaslow accepted $2,500, but complained that he wanted $5,000.

• Joseph Cardwell, a political consultant and a commissioner of the Jersey City Municipal Utilities Authority. He accepted two payments of $10,000 in cash to assist the cooperating witness with local government officials in Jersey City and other municipalities, and another $10,000, most of which was used for the purchase of fundraising event tickets.

• Guy Catrillo, a Jersey City planning aide and member of the mayor's "Action Bureau," and an unsuccessful candidate for the city council. Catrillo took $10,000 in campaign cash and another $5,000.

• L. Harvey Smith, state Assemblyman, a Jersey City mayoral candidate and former three-term councilman in Jersey City and a Hudson County undersheriff. Smith took two cash payments, one for $5,000, the other for $10,000, in exchange for approaching high-level contacts with the state Department of Transportation and Department of Environmental Protection to clear the way for approvals of the cooperating witness's project on Garfield Avenue in Jersey City and another project off Route 440 in Bayonne. Smith's aide, Richard Greene, is charged in the same criminal Complaint, and is accused of taking the $5,000 payment from the cooperating witness and passing it to Smith.

• Peter Cammarano III, previously a Hoboken councilman and now mayor, and a lawyer specializing in election law. While a candidate for mayor, then-councilman Cammarano and his close associate, Michael Schaffer, a commissioner on the North Hudson Utilities Authority, took three payments of $5,000 each with the promise that, in return, Cammarano would sponsor zoning changes and push through building plans for high-rise development in Hoboken by the cooperating witness. After the conclusion of their first meeting at a Hoboken diner, the cooperating witness stated, "Make sure you get my stuff expedited." To which Cammarano replied: "I promise you ... you're gonna be treated like a friend." Moments later, in the parking lot, Schaffer took the first $5,000 in cash. On July 16, Cammarano and Schaffer met the cooperating witness again at a Hoboken diner and accepted another $10,000, which Cammarano said was needed to pay campaign debts, bringing the total in bribes accepted by Cammarano and Schaffer to $25,000.

• Dennis Elwell, mayor of Secaucus, and Ronald Manzo (Manzo is charged in this Complaint in addition to the one with his brother Louis). Elwell received a $10,000 cash bribe - through Manzo as the middleman - to assist the cooperating witness with plans to build a hotel in Secaucus. Manzo took $5,000 from the cooperating witness as a reward for bringing Elwell to him.

• Anthony Suarez, mayor of Ridgefield Borough and an attorney, and co-defendant Vincent Tabbachino, owner of a tax preparation business in Guttenberg. Suarez accepted $10,000 from the cooperating witness through Tabbachino as a middleman, for Suarez's promised assistance in getting approvals to develop properties in Ridgefield. Tabbachino said he kept the cash and, in turn, would write checks totaling $10,000 (one check for $2,500 was cashed) to a legal defense fund for Suarez related to an allegation made by a political opponent of Suarez. Tabbachino also laundered $100,000 in cash from the cooperating witness's purported knock-off handbag business.

• Daniel M. Van Pelt, state Assemblyman and administrator for Lumberton Township. Van Pelt accepted $10,000 from the cooperating witness for his influence as a state Assemblyman to help in getting the necessary permits for a purported project the cooperating witness was planning in Waretown, Ocean Township. Van Pelt particularly offered his influence in obtaining the necessary permits from the state Department of Environmental Protection.

• Jeffrey Williamson, a Lakewood housing inspector, who was also a state Assembly candidate in 2007. He accepted a total of more than $16,000 in bribes in regular payments of $1,000 between about May 2007 and the last one on July 10, to provide lenient inspections on rental and other properties owned by the cooperating witness in Lakewood. Williamson also allowed the cooperating witness to illegally use a residence in Lakewood as a commercial office. Charles "Shaul" Amon aided in the Lakewood payoff scheme by introducing Williamson to the cooperating witness.

• Charles "Shaul" Amon, previously worked for the cooperating witness managing properties in Lakewood. Amon aided in the Lakewood payoff scheme by introducing Williamson to the cooperating witness. Amon described how he had previously made payoffs to Williamson to go light on housing inspections.

The Money Laundering Defendants

Following are the individuals charged in the money laundering investigation and summaries of their alleged conduct as described in the criminal Complaints (All defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt):

• Saul Kassin, the chief rabbi of Sharee Zion in Brooklyn, who laundered more than $200,000 with the cooperating witness between June 2007 and December 2008 by accepting "dirty" bank checks from the cooperating witness and exchanging them for clean checks from Kassin's charitable organization, after taking a fee of 10 percent for each transaction.

• Edmund Nahum, principal rabbi at Deal Synagogue in Deal, N.J., who laundered money both acting alone and with Kassin. Nahum laundered $185,000 between June 2007 and December 2008 by accepting dirty checks from the cooperating witness and exchanging them for clean checks from his own and Kassin's charitable organizations, after taking a fee of 10 percent for each transaction. Both Kassin and Nahum also laundered money to create fictitious tax deductions by accepting checks made payable to their charitable organizations, which created the appearance of charitable donations. They then deducted their 10 percent fee for laundering the checks through their charitable organization accounts and returned to the originators checks drawn on one of their accounts for 90 percent of the value of the original checks. These return checks would be payable to a name designated by the originators.

• Eli Ben Haim, principal rabbi of Congregation Ohel Yaacob in Deal, N.J., laundered $1.5 million with the cooperating witness between June 2007 and February 2009 by accepting dirty checks from the cooperating witness and exchanging them for cash, after taking a fee of approximately 10 percent for each transaction. His source for the cash was an Israeli who, for a fee of 1.5 percent, supplied the cash through intermediary cash houses run by defendants Weiss, Ehrental, and Cohen, who are described below. Ben Haim remarked that at one time he had laundered between $7 million and $8 million in one year, and earned $1 million laundering money in that year.

Cash House Operators for Haim transactions:

• Arye Weiss - operated cash house from his residence in Brooklyn for Haim money laundering transactions; charged with supplying $300,000 in cash.

• Yeshayahu Ehrental- operated cash house from his office in Brooklyn for Haim money laundering transactions; charged with supplying $300,000 in cash.

• Schmulik Cohen - operated cash house from his residence in Brooklyn for Haim money laundering transactions; charged with supplying $850,000 in cash.

• Mordchai Fish - Rabbi of Congregation Sheves Achim in Brooklyn. Working with his brother Lavel Schwartz, also a rabbi in Brooklyn, Fish laundered approximately $585,000 with the cooperating witness by accepting dirty checks and exchanging them for cash, after taking a fee of 15 percent for each transaction. His source for the cash for some of the transactions was Levi Deutsch, who supplied the cash through an intermediary cash house run by Spira; for other transactions his source for the cash is unidentified but the cash was provided by cash couriers Gertner and Goldhirsh and cash houses run by Pollack and Weber. On two occasions over the course of his dealings with the Cooperating witness, Fish gave the Cooperating witness new chips for his cell phone to thwart any law enforcement attempt to wiretap their telephone calls.

• Levi Deutsch - Israeli source/supplier of cash for a number of Fish money laundering transactions. For a fee of two or three percent, he supplied cash for the transactions through intermediary Spira's cash house and is charged with supplying $200,000 in cash

Cash House Operators and Cash Couriers for Fish transactions:

• Binyomin Spira - operated a cash house from a bakery in Brooklyn in which he received cash from Levi Deutsch and supplied cash for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with supplying $200,000 in cash

• Yolie Gertner - acted as a cash courier for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with moving $185,000 in cash

• David Goldhirsh - acted as a cash courier for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with moving $100,000 in cash

• Abe Pollack - operated cash house from his office in Brooklyn (which he shared with Naftoly Weber) for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with supplying $125,000 in cash

• Naftoly Weber - operated cash house from his office in Brooklyn (which he shared with Abe Pollack) for Fish money laundering transactions, charged with supplying $125,000 in cash.

Additionally, money laundering charges were filed against Shimon Haber and Itzak Friedlander, associates of Michael Altman.

Marra credited Special Agents of the FBI Red Bank Resident Agency, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Weysan Dun, in Newark, and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Julio La Rosa, for their commitment of resources and success in the Bid Rig cases to date. Marra also thanked the Monmouth County Prosecutor's Office under the direction of Prosecutor Luis Valentin for its assistance in the Bid Rig investigations.

The cases are being prosecuted by Brian Howe, Deputy Chief of the Special Prosecutions Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Mark McCarren, Sandra Moser and Maureen Nakly, all of the Special Prosecutions Division.

There's a lot to dig into on this story about New Jersey mayors, lawmakers, and rabbis being charged in connection with a federal corruption and international money laundering probe.

But we've been focusing on one of the few New Yorkers: Issac Rosenbaum, a Brooklynite who works in real estate -- and has been charged with trafficking in human kidneys. It's not clear how or whether this case is tied to the public corruption probe. But with details like these, who cares, frankly...

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