Category Archives: 2010

Former New Jersey State Senator Wayne R. Bryant and Attorney Eric D. Wisler Indicted on Corruption Charges

U.S. Attorney’s Office

September 27, 2010


PREET BHARARA, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and Acting United States Attorney for the District of New Jersey, MICHAEL B. WARD, the Special Agent in Charge for the New Jersey Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), and VICTOR W. LESSOFF, the Special Agent in Charge of the New Jersey Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (“IRS-CID”), announced today an Indictment charging former New Jersey State Senator WAYNE R. BRYANT and attorney ERIC D. WISLER with multiple counts of fraud and bribery.

According to the Indictment filed today in Newark federal court:

BRYANT was a State Senator representing New Jersey’s 5th District, which included Camden, and served as Chairman of the Senate’s Budget and Appropriations Committee. BRYANT also was a named, equity partner at a law firm in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. WISLER was a named, equity partner at a law firm in Teaneck, New Jersey. Among WISLER’s clients was a private equity investment firm located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and a management firm that undertook several “brownfields,” redevelopment projects in New Jersey by which contaminated land was to be made suitable for development.

In 2004, WISLER arranged for his firm to enter into a retainer agreement with BRYANT’s firm, which called for BRYANT’s firm to be paid a retainer fee of $8,000 per month. The payment was purportedly to cover fees for legal work relating to land use, condemnation, and other matters for a development project in the New Jersey Meadowlands. In truth and in fact, however, the payments made under the retainer agreement were actually bribes paid in exchange for official action that BRYANT took in favor of the various redevelopment projects undertaken by WISLER and his clients, including a proposed $1.2 billion redevelopment of Camden’s Cramer Hill neighborhood, which sat in BRYANT’s legislative district. BRYANT rendered his approval and support for this project despite significant backlash among his constituents regarding the use of eminent domain and relocation of residents in that neighborhood. BRYANT also expressed support for funding from the New Jersey Department of Transportation and Camden’s Economic Recovery Board, whose function was to allocate $175 million in funding that Camden received under the 2002 Municipal Rehabilitation and Economic Recovery Act (“MRERA”), which BRYANT sponsored.

BRYANT provided a consistent vote for legislation that was favorable to WISLER’s clients, such as a 2004 amendment to the Redevelopment Area Bond Financing Law that facilitated bond financing for the Meadowlands project, appropriations legislation by which the Meadowlands project received more than $200 million in loans from the New Jersey Environmental Infrastructure Trust (“NJEIT”) and New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (“NJDEP”), and “fast-track” legislation that required the NJDEP and other state agencies to expedite their review of applications for permits or have those permits deemed granted. BRYANT also sponsored a bill in 2005 for a $112 million loan from NJEIT to be used for the Meadowlands project.

BRYANT’s firm was paid approximately $192,000 in fees between August 2004 and August 2006. However, no actual legal work was performed under the retainer agreement. No attorneys at BRYANT’s firm performed any services under the retainer agreement, and no attorneys at WISLER’s firm interacted with attorneys of BRYANT’s firm with respect to the Meadowlands Project.

According to the Indictment, both WISLER and BRYANT took steps to conceal the existence of the retainer agreement. Despite working extensively with colleagues at his law firm on a variety of matters pertaining to the Cramer Hill and Meadowlands developments, WISLER failed to inform any of them about the existence of the retainer agreement. WISLER specifically drafted the retainer agreement to be for work on certain phases of the project for which the invoices were not reviewed by the public agencies that loaned money to the project. BRYANT failed to inform Camden’s Chief Operating Officer (“COO”) of the retainer agreement, despite his friendship with the COO and regularly interacting with the COO on matters regarding Cramer Hill.

In addition, the Indictment alleges that WISLER and BRYANT caused false invoices to be drafted that fraudulently indicated that BRYANT’s firm was performing legal services under the retainer agreement. These invoices formed the basis for false and fraudulent billings to the Raleigh investment firm by which it paid the retainer fees to BRYANT’s firm through WISLER’s firm.

The Indictment charges BRYANT and WISLER with twenty counts of honest services mail fraud and one count of receiving bribes. It charges BRYANT with extorting payments under color of official right. It also charges WISLER with 17 counts of mail and wire fraud in connection with the false and fraudulent billings to his client. If convicted, BRYANT and WISLER face a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison for each count, except for the receiving bribes charge, for which each faces a maximum sentence of ten years in prison. The Indictment also seeks the forfeiture of the approximately $192,000 in illicit payments made to BRYANT.

This investigation is being supervised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York due to the recusal of the U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey. PREET BHARARA was named Acting United States Attorney for the case under Title 28, United States Code, Section 515.

Mr. BHARARA praised the investigative work of the FBI and the Criminal Investigations Division of the IRS in this case. He also thanked the New Jersey Department of Labor and Public Safety, and the Criminal Investigators assigned to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey for their outstanding work.

This case is being supervised by the Public Corruption Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. Assistant U.S. Attorneys JAMES B. NOBILE, BRADLEY A. HARSCH and JENNY R. KRAMER of the Special Prosecutions Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, are in charge of the prosecution.

Original Source:

185 Camden cases tossed, ‘corrupt’ police work blamed

April 03, 2010

Post Staff Report

CAMDEN, N.J. — Josephine Skinner’s grandson Dequan was 11 or 12 years old a few summers ago when she says he had a run-in with a Camden police officer who neighbors claim terrorized them for years.

As the youth crossed the street to buy a soda at a store, she said Officer Jason Stetser — known on the streets as “Fat Face” — sprang from his cruiser.

“He grabbed my grandson and said he had $100 of stuff on him,” Skinner said. “They tried to lock him up.”

For years, residents say some police officers have bullied them in this impoverished city, making cases by planting drugs on suspects, falsifying police reports, and conducting searches without warrants. Now four officers, including Stetser, are being investigated by a federal grand jury.

And prosecutors say they’ve had to drop charges or vacate convictions in 185 criminal cases because of possibly corrupt police work — meaning scores of criminals could end up returning to drug-infested streets.

Another of Skinner’s grandchildren, 15-year-old Artice Skinner, said he witnessed the episode between Stetser and Dequan and saw Stetser hold out his hand, overflowing with crack cocaine that the police officer said came from Dequan’s pocket.

Skinner said Dequan was released after an aunt explained that he wasn’t the neighborhood child police were looking for.

“The cops were more of a problem than the crime was,” said Josephine Skinner.

Their Waterfront South neighborhood has breathed a little easier since November, when Stetser and at least three other officers were taken off the streets as authorities began their investigation.

Stetser’s lawyer, Richard Madden, did not return a call.

Among those suspended was 29-year-old patrolman Kevin Parry. On March 19, he admitted in court that he stole drugs from some suspects, planted them on others, bribed prostitutes with drugs for information, conducted searches without warrants, lied on police reports and in testimony, and roughed up suspects. He acknowledged 50-70 acts of police misconduct from May 2007 to October 2009.

Residents say it was not uncommon for some officers to greet locals by punching them, using force to intimidate. The threat of criminal charges was the main police currency.

In Waterfront South, lovingly tended row homes sit uneasily alongside crumbling empty ones and monstrous warehouses loom beyond back yards. The stench from a nearby sewage plant hangs in the air. Daffodils have begun to bloom in a trash-strewn vacant lot.

A church group has painted poetry on sheets of plywood nailed over windows of vacant buildings — like Pablo Neruda’s lines, “I want to do with you what the spring does with cherry trees.”

The same day Parry pleaded guilty last month, authorities spoke publicly about the investigation for the first time. Camden County Prosecutor Warren Faulk said several officers were being investigated by the federal grand jury. Only Parry has been criminally charged.

Faulk also revealed that 185 cases had been compromised because of possibly corrupt police work. It’s not that all the suspects weren’t guilty, he said, but that without using the reports of the officers, there was no more credible evidence.

Lawyers have now begun filing claims notifying the city of their intention to sue based on the actions of Parry and the other officers.

The investigation has cast doubt — at least in Josephine Skinner’s neighborhood — over even more drug cases.

Bodega owner Manuel Torres says that he thinks his sons, Jonathan and Sterling, were set up by police for their drug arrests a few years ago. Neither has had his conviction vacated.

The scandal is the latest blow to crimefighting in a city that can ill afford it.

In report after report, Camden ranks as one of the nation’s most dangerous cities. Known as the drug marketplace for locals and suburbanites, the city has a constant presence of U.S. Marshals and state police, along with city police.

But, there have been some promising signs. The murder rate began falling in the summer of 2008 when police reworked their schedules and strategies. They started using more sophisticated data to figure out when and where crime was highest. They used that information to make sure they had more officers on the streets at those times.

Residents of Waterfront South said their problems with the police predated those changes.

Among those whose drug convictions were vacated in December was Josephine Skinner’s 46-year-old son, Mark. He said he had been arrested in November 2005, just weeks after he was released from jail on a previous drug-dealing conviction.

Mark Skinner said that 2005 arrest came as he sat on the stoop in front of his mother’s home, and that police — including Stetser — slammed him against the wall. Police failed to find drugs on him or in the house, then showed up with a trash bag full of small orange bags of crack worth about $4,000.

He said he pleaded guilty to get a three-year sentence, rather than risk up to 20 years with no chance of parole for a decade if he’d been found guilty at trial.

“I did three years for nothing,” he said as he stood on the corner of Broadway and Viola Streets, near a new maritime museum — and a well-known drug spot.

The neighborhood has plenty of stories about problems caused by the police in recent years.

Jamar Dorsey, then a 20-year-old student at Camden County College, said Stetser planted marijuana on him in 2007 and threatened him with drug charges if he didn’t lead Stetser to more drugs or weapons.

When Dorsey said he didn’t know where drugs could be found, he was charged.

He pleaded guilty to drug possession, taking three years of probation instead of risking a stiffer penalty at trial — even though it meant losing his college financial aid and dropping out of college.

“Who were they going to believe?” Dorsey said. “Me or him?”

Another neighbor, Michelle Kellum, said her disabled son, Gregory, was 15 when he went to a corner store with money from his disability check. Stetser threw him in the back of a police car and took the money, she said, a little more than $100.

Kellum said the officer let her son go after she showed a receipt to prove where the money came from.

“Fat Face had everybody terrified,” she said. “You wouldn’t see anybody walking out here” when he was around.

And in the end, she said, the questionable police work failed its main objective — taking drugs off the streets.

Welcome To “Transition Park”, The Horrible Tent City In Camden, NJ

If you think you’ve seen poverty, get ready to be shocked at what you’re about to see.

This is what it looks like

People have been living here for years.

Imagine living here during a blizzard
Tents have had their roof collapse due to the snowfall in the winter

Some residents get completely snowed in
But, they stand together

The rules of the tent city

Governor Chris Christie speaks with residents
Residents express their concerns to the New Jersey Governor

Residents are interviewed

Transition Park from James Aom on Vimeo.

Video of Transition Park

Camden City Council Approves Massive Police And Fire Layoffs


CAMDEN, NJ (CBS) — Camden City Council, as expected, voted Thursday to lay off almost 400 workers, half of them police officers and firefighters, to bridge a $26.5 million deficit.

That’s about a quarter of the city’s entire work force.

Five members of City Council voted unanimously to approve the layoff plan — two other members were absent. The cuts take effect in mid-January.

walco Camden City Council Approves Massive Police And Fire LayoffsExactly how many city workers will be affected is still an open question, although nearly half the city’s police and a third of the firefighters are slated to go.

Karl Walco (right) is with the union that represents non-uniformed Camden city workers.

“If we agreed to everything that the city proposed in concessions, it would only have a minor impact on the number of layoffs,” Walco told the council members.

No argument from Council. They sat impassively as workers and residents alike voiced their frustration.

When it was over, Council president Frank Moran suggested they’re not to blame.

“We didn’t put a price tag on public safety. Unfortunately, the governor of the State of New Jersey put that price tag on it,” he said at the packed Council meeting.

That price tag is $69 million, in transitional aid. Moran suggested that Camden residents should vent to Governor Chris Christie.

After the vote, council members and Camden Mayor Dana Redd avoided reporters by going into their offices.

Reported by David Madden, KYW Newsradio 1060.