New Jersey Informant's meeting with mayor aired at trial Mayor says he never took $10K

By David Porter

Associated Press Writer

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) -- Jurors in the federal corruption trial of a northern New Jersey mayor and an associate watched a secretly recorded videotape Wednesday showing the associate taking $10,000 from an informant posing as a corrupt developer -- money allegedly intended to buy the mayor's help with zoning approvals.

Whether or not Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez took the money from tax preparer Vincent Tabbachino in exchange for official action is the key question in the trial of the two men, who each face extortion and bribery counts.

They were among more than 40 people arrested in the summer of 2009 as part of a large-scale federal public corruption and money laundering sting.

In videotape segments aired for jurors Wednesday morning, Tabbachino is seen and heard meeting with informant Solomon Dwek and assuring him that Suarez is on board with the plan. At one point Tabbachino tells Dwek, "He understands everything. I told him I would take care of anything that needs to be done. ... Uncle Vinny knows how to handle everything."

Yet during a meeting with Suarez, the mayor appears to tell Dwek that a contribution to Suarez's legal defense fund -- set up to pay his bills for a separate defamation lawsuit -- and any help with zoning approvals won't be connected, saying, "They're separate things."

"If you don't want it, I won't give it to you," Dwek tells Suarez.

"I appreciate that," Suarez replies.

After the meeting, Dwek is seen taking a FedEx envelope he said contained $10,000 in cash out of his car trunk and giving it to Tabbachino, and the two discuss whether to give it to Suarez as cash or as a check.

Suarez's defense attorneys have claimed he never accepted the cash and never cashed a check Tabbachino gave him later, but did accept $2,500 from Tabbachino for the defense fund that wasn't part of Dwek's money.

Dwek, who was arrested in 2006 and has pleaded guilty in a $50 million bank fraud, became a cooperating witness for the government and posed as a corrupt developer.

He is the central witness against Suarez and Tabbachino.

Published: Fri, Oct 8, 2010