Sleaze Survives in the Soprano State


by James J. Devine

A scandal triggered by abortion, charity improprieties and a gross abuse of power has apparently ended after five years, leaving a political career virtually unblemished while utterly destroying a woman’s life and costing taxpayers millions of dollars.

Karen E. Golding became intimate with Assemblyman Joseph Cryan in 2001, the year following his divorce, and by early 2003 their relationship had turned into what she would describe as a romantic “roller coaster” — but that crashed in the summer of 2005.

The West Orange woman said Cryan angrily manhandled her at an Atlantic City casino in response to learning about that abortion and her persecution has been compared to a murder investigation, but hardly a word of protest has risen among women’s groups, civil rights activists or political reformers.

Sheriff Ralph Froehlich said Union County Democratic Party boss Charlotte Defilippo pressured him into giving Cryan a job two months after his father’s Metuchen tavern closed down in 2002, owing $500,000 in state sales taxes.

Since Cryan took over its management functions, audit reports prepared by Suplee, Clooney and Company disclosed that financial statements, “do not present fairly, in conformity with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles, the financial position of the Office of the Sheriff, County of Union, as of December 31, 2007 and 2006.”

When Cryan became the leading contender to chair the state Democratic Party in the fall of 2005, someone used a Yahoo account to send an anonymous e-mail to a journalist urging an probe into Cryan Association finances.

Police documents show Cryan hired a West Caldwell security firm and directed subordinates at the Union County sheriff’s office, as well as investigators from the prosecutor’s office to track down the email’s author, which turned out to be Golding.

Cryan and Defilippo were business partners in a title insurance agency, which closed while it was part of a corruption probe led by State Police detective John Pizzuro.

Cryan set up a legal defense fund for Defilippo with Ray Lesniak and Monmouth County Democratic Chairman Victor Scudiery.

About the same time, state Attorney General Zulima Farber announced she was investigating an allegation by a developer that Cryan had accepted illegal campaign donations.

In August, 2005, Cryan accepted illegal campaign contributions from two charities that were awarded grants worth $43,000 about eight weeks later by the Union Township governing body, whose members are handpicked by the Assemblyman, who is also the local political boss there.

The same Township Committee awarded development rights to a Cryan donor — three days after netting $75,000 for his campaign — for a parcel of land that would have been subjected to eminent domain.

The land was owned by Carol Segal, who had an agreement with one of the nation’s largest home builders to develop the property, but Cryan’s cronies gave it to M & M Construction, a firm controlled by Joseph Mauti and his cousin, Albert Mauti, a Staten Island resident who hosted the country club fundraiser.

Despite this scandalous record of double-dipping, power abuse and corruption, Cryan was elected Majority Leader by Assembly Democrats on Nov. 23, as part of a deal between South Jersey power broker George Norcross and Essex County boss Steve Adubato.

That power play installed as Assembly speaker a virtually powerless African-American woman employed full time by Essex County Executive Joe DiVincenzo, and placed as Senate president a Norcross minion who serves on the Gloucester County Board of Chosen Freeholders and is employed as an ironworkers union organizer.

A book by two veteran political reporters detailing scandal and corruption dubbed New Jersey “The Soprano State” and these events could have comprised a whole chapter.

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