HOBOKEN AND BEYOND -- The U.S. Attorney's office announced Monday that former Hoboken Councilman Michael Schaffer admitted in court that he gave $25,000 in illicit cash campaign contributions to former Hoboken Mayor Peter Cammarano in a scheme to obtain Cammarano’s official influence regarding an outside developer's real estate projects.
Schaffer, 59, appeared before United States District Judge Jose L. Linares Monday and pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal Information charging him with conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right. Judge Linares continued Schaffer’s release on a $100,000 bond pending sentencing, which is scheduled for Sept. 15, 2010.
At his plea hearing, Schaffer admitted that, while Cammarano was an at-large nCouncilman for the City of Hoboken and candidate for the position of mayor, Schaffer accepted three unlawful cash campaign contributions totaling $15,000 from a cooperating witness (“CW”), who purported to be a real estate developer, according to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
Schaffer was working with Cammarano on Cammarano's ultimately successful mayoral campaign. However, Cammarano ended up arrested three weeks after taking office, and resigned the following week after public pressure. He pleaded guilty this past April 20.
The arrests of Schaffer and Cammarano last summer were part of an FBI sting operation into potentially corrupt politicians and political candidates.
According to the release, Schaffer further admitted that on July 16, 2009, after Cammarano had been elected and sworn in as mayor, he accepted an additional $10,000 illicit cash campaign contribution from the witness.
The witness has been identified as real estate developer Solomon Dwek, who himself was in trouble with the FBI and helped supply the bait to ensnare many of the political figures who were caught last year.
Schaffer admitted that the $25,000 in cash payments were in exchange for Cammarano’s future official assistance, action, and influence in Hoboken government matters pertaining to Dwek's anticipated real estate development projects. Schaffer also admitted that he wrote checks to Cammarano’s campaign fund in order to conceal the origin of the cash he received from Dwek.
Fishman stated: “Today Michael Schaffer admitted that he facilitated $25,000 in illegal payments to the mayor of Hoboken. Much is said about corrupt officials, but we cannot ignore those who conspire to enable that corruption. We and our law enforcement partners will continue to hold those who betray the public accountable, and we won’t leave out the middle man.”
The charge to which Schaffer pleaded guilty carries a maximum statutory penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Cammarano himself is scheduled for sentencing on August 3, 2010.
Fishman said that Edward Cheatam, another conspirator in the scheme, pleaded guilty on Sept. 18, 2009, and also awaits sentencing.
In determining an actual sentence, Judge Linares will consult the advisory U.S.
Sentencing Guidelines, which recommend sentencing ranges that take into account the severity and characteristics of the offense, the defendant’s criminal history, if any, and other factors, including acceptance of responsibility. The judge, however, has discretion and is not bound by those guidelines in determining a sentence.
Schaffer also has served on the local sewerage authority.