The saga of New Jersey political and money-laundering scandals, tied together by an unlikely FBI informant.
Sherman and Margolin, both reporters for the Newark Star-Ledger, reveal the maneuvering behind the criminal charges filed on July 23, 2009, against more than 40 individuals—some of them local politicians across New Jersey, others with links to Syrian Jewish communities on the New Jersey shore. The politicians and the religious practitioners shared nothing in common except Solomon Dwek, the federal informant who operated undercover after being charged with bank fraud resulting from unsuccessful real-estate deals. The cast of characters helpfully listed by the authors totals nearly 100, and that is not a complete count of everybody who played a role in the intertwined investigations. As a result, some of the characters might fade from the reader’s memory quickly. Dwek, however, is memorable, given his high-wire informant act coached by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. The extroverted, disorganized and apparently fearless son of a respected rabbi from a Deal, N.J., synagogue, Dwek entrapped many in the usually closed devout community, placing himself in exile from his wife, children and parents, among others. In exchange, Dwek hoped to receive a reduced prison sentence after being caught defrauding a lending bank and private investors in his schemes. It turned out that many who of those who failed to forgive the informant had been breaking the law as well, using synagogues and private enterprises to launder money for a fee on behalf of disparate secular parties who wanted to cover up ill-gotten gains. The political side of the sting coordinated by federal law enforcement had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with old-style bribes in cities across New Jersey—bribes that would have allowed Dwek to forge ahead with questionable commercial and residential real-estate projects. The authors set the scandals against the electoral backdrop of New Jersey, with the Republican candidate for governor defeating the Democratic incumbent a few months after the sting.
A vivid law-enforcement procedural with a larger-than-life central character.