The once-powerful head of the Bergen County Democratic
Organization was indicted Wednesday on charges that he engaged in a
racketeering scheme involving kickbacks paid to a public official, soliciting
and accepting bribes as a party official and extortion, according to federal
The indictment charged Joseph Ferriero, 56, with conducting the BCDO’s affairs “through a pattern of racketeering activity,” according to U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman.
Among other accusations, the indictment says Ferriero worked with a Nutley-based software developer in a secret bribery and kickback scheme involving contracts between the Nutley company and Bergen County municipalities.
The Indictment says Ferriero worked with a Nutley attorney who ran several businesses, including the web development business Xquizit Technologies, the governmental notification service C3 Holdings and Braveside Capital.
Prosecutors say Ferriero and the software developer used Braveside Capital to secretly pay concealed bribes and kickbacks to Ferriero in connection with contracts between C3 and various Bergen County municipalities.
The indictment does not name the attorney.
Ferriero ran the BCDO “as a racketeering enterprise, abusing power for profit,” said Fishman. “Today’s charges expose years of peddled influence, from grants to building projects to software contracts. Battling political corruption is a constant priority for this office; we will continue to demand honest public service for the people of New Jersey.”
Ferriero extorted $1.7 million from a company proposing to develop a retail and entertainment project on land owned by the N.J. Sports & Exposition Authority in Bergen County between 2002 and 2006, according to federal prosecutors.
“In 2002, the [unnamed company] agreed to secretly pay a consulting company operated by Ferriero and two of his then-law partners $35,000 a month in exchange for Ferriero’s agreement not to publicly oppose – nor to cause members of the BCDO or other public officials with whom he had influence to publicly oppose – the [unnamed company’s] proposal to the NJSEA,” reads the indictment.
The unnamed company is believed to be the Mills Corporation—a former developer of the ill-fated Xanadu project—which ultimately sold off its stake in the project and went bankrupt.
“The conduct alleged in today’s indictment is another unfortunate example of someone misusing their position in our political system for personal gain,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Aaron T. Ford. “Such conduct tarnishes our political system. Today’s indictment reaffirms the FBI’s commitment to combat public corruption in New Jersey, and serves as a stark reminder that those who seek to violate public trust will be held accountable.”
The Teaneck-born Ferriero is charged with racketeering, conspiring to promote bribery and distribute bribe proceeds and to commit mail and wire fraud, as well as several other charges. The charges carry a combined max penalty of 50 years in prison.
He is scheduled to make an appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Joseph A. Dickinson on Thursday.