TRENTON – Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced that a Bloomfield Township councilman was arrested Nov 18, 2015 on a charge that he solicited and accepted a bribe of $15,000 from a business owner, promising the owner that he would use his position on the council to ensure that the township went ahead with its planned purchase of the man’s commercial property.
First Ward Councilman Elias N. Chalet of Bloomfield, 53, was arrested Monday night and charged by complaint with second-degree bribery in official and political matters. The charge is the result of an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption North Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
“We charge that Chalet crookedly put the authority entrusted to him as an elected official up for sale for his own personal enrichment,” said Acting Attorney General Hoffman. “When officials start selling favors, as alleged here, it undermines the integrity and fair administration of government.”
“We will aggressively prosecute any officials who break the law and corruptly put their personal interests ahead of the public interest,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “Fortunately, the State Police were alerted in this case regarding Chalet’s alleged solicitation of a bribe, so we were able to investigate fully. We urge anyone with information about government corruption to contact us confidentially.”
“It is difficult to think of a greater betrayal of the public’s trust than when an elected official uses their influence for personal monetary gain,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “The citizens of our state deserve better and this arrest will send a message that this type of illegal conduct will not be tolerated.”
Chalet initially met with the business owner on Oct. 8 in front of Chalet’s real estate office on Broad Street in Bloomfield. Chalet allegedly told the business owner that the township’s planned purchase of his commercial property would only go through if the owner gave Chalet $15,000 in cash.
In a subsequent meeting on Oct. 21 at Chalet’s real estate office, Chalet allegedly discussed again that the business owner would pay $15,000 in return for Chalet making sure that the property would be purchased by the township. That meeting was recorded.
Chalet and the business owner agreed that the business owner would make an initial payment of $10,000, with the balance of $5,000 to be paid after the township purchased the property. While Chalet initially asked that the business owner pay the cash through a middle man, both ultimately agreed that the payments would instead be made directly to Chalet.
Chalet allegedly accepted the first cash payment of $10,000 from the business owner on Oct. 23 at Chalet’s real estate office. Chalet was arrested Monday at his real estate office after he allegedly accepted the remaining $5,000 in cash from the business owner. Those meetings also were recorded.
Chalet was initially lodged in the Essex County Jail with bail set at $100,000. He has since been released on bail.
Deputy Attorney General Jane Khodarkovsy is assigned to prosecute the case for the Division of Criminal Justice, under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Anthony Picione, Chief of the Corruption Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Manis, Deputy Chief.
The second-degree bribery charge carries a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison, including a mandatory minimum term of five years without parole, and a fine of up to $150,000. The charge is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The Division of Criminal Justice has a toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities confidentially. The public can also log on to the Division webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.
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