Michael Russo, Beth Mason facing FBI arrest expected to resign, Hoboken411’s Perry Klaussen, City officials, others flipped by Feds
Sources close to council members Michael Russo and Beth Mason said late Sunday both are ready to resign their council ward seats and submit to arrests this week for their respective roles in the massive data theft conspiracy in the City Hall’s mayor’s office.
Each are believed to be facing 10-20 years in prison for numerous counts of violating federal laws on acquiring private, electronic confidential information from an elected official for the purposes of undermining the Office of the Mayor and the City of Hoboken.
The FBI uncovered the widespread Data Theft Ring last May with the arrest of the City IT Manager last November.
A source close to the Russo clan speaking under the cloak of anonymity said while Michael Russo recognized there was no alternative to losing his 3rd ward seat, he intended to fight the charges and would claim at trial to have acted as a double agent since 2009 when he met with FBI informant Solomon Dwek in a Jersey City restaurant agreeing to accept bribes in the Operation Bid Rig sting. It’s believed the FBI surveillance video ending with the agreed payment did in fact occur with at least one $5,000 check being accepted by Russo in another meeting after being made out as requested to “Russo for Hoboken.”
Councilwoman Beth Mason’s legal team was said to be shocked by the Fed’s decision to arrest and indict her. She is rumored to have been cooperating with the Feds for some months and believed it sufficient to avoid arrest for her role in the data theft conspiracy.
Sources say the Feds did not see her minions sacrificed as sufficient to give her immunity from prosecution and any testimony offered against the Russo clan was unnecessary as irrefutable evidence was already independently acquired since the FBI made a massive data collection sweep of City Hall last May.
A number of arrests are also expected to follow in short order, most notably among them Tim Occhipinti who rose to take the 4th ward council seat in an avalanche of questionable votes including almost 500 submitted paper vote by mail ballots in the 2010 November special election. A review undertaken by the NJ Attorney General’s Office may have seen cooperation with the Feds in Newark for that part of a wider investigation in Hoboken.
|Councilman Michael Russo sees it all passing before his eyes. His defense is expected to claim he was a double agent for the FBI. The Feds in Newark are saying that’s not the case.|
Sources say a slew of arrests numbering more than half a dozen can also be expected to follow with charges ranging from attempted bribery, extortion, bribery, money laundering and bid rigging unrelated to the Data Theft Conspiracy portion of the investigation.
Mason’s legal team according to sources said it appears associates once loyal to her had been engaged with the Feds in Newark in a preemptive action to counter her cooperation against them. They said their testimony against her would be subjected to the highest scrutiny and not withstand cross examination.
Mason’s defense team will be led by criminal defense attorney Joseph F. Hayden, the lawyer who represented former mayor and convicted felon Peter Cammarano. In an email statement on behalf of the Mason legal team he said his client was stepping down to better fight against this “flagrant coordinated political attack by Mayor Zimmer and Governor Christie” and she was “innocent of these charges and intends to fight with all her strength and resources available to her until she proves her innocence.”
Last July, MSV reported Beth Mason when questioned after the City Council meeting on her role and knowledge in the Data Theft Ring oddly responded not with a denial of any involvement but by saying about the emails, “I didn’t see yours.”
Councilman Michael Russo unlike his political ally had avoided any incriminating answers on questions surrounding alleged involvement in the looting of communications in the mayor’s office. He was a co-sponsor in the resolution asking for all the mayor’s electronic communications last May going back to January 2010 be made public covering the exact same time period the City IT manager began to systematically illegally collect that information. He repeatedly avoided any answer or left the dais when MSV raised the question directly over months at several City Council meetings.
The raid by the FBI on Hoboken last May is also the reason given for the closure of the Russo Civic Association.
“We knew the jig was up,” said Grafix Avenger source Deep Uvula who asked that their name not be used in this story as they were unsure of their own probable arrest. “One of our people spotted some Mason operatives boarding a NJ Transit train to a northern NJ destination the end of last week. We knew that wasn’t the last stop and the FBI maintains safe houses up there.”
Councilwoman Beth Mason’s descent began almost immediately with her jettisoning reform credentials to join up with the Russo clan in her miserable mayoral candidacy bid back in the spring of 2009. She was reportedly shocked by her crushing distant third place showing after her campaign had pointed to polls saying she would win the election outright with no runoff necessary.
One intimate source on that campaign said she never recovered from the defeat saying, “Her staff had to go and drag her out of her bedroom four days after the election. She completely lost it and was wailing for four days straight.” They added her anger for that loss and a later fall 2009 defeat again to Zimmer was likely her motivation for trying to sabotage the sale of Hoboken University Medical Center and bankrupt the City.
Mayor Dawn Zimmer reached late Sunday declined to make an immediate statement. Her spokesman said she’s planning a meeting at City Hall later this week to discuss candidates for both the 2nd and 3rd wards council seats until a special election to fill the remainder of the council terms after the arrests and resignations become official. The special elections will be held in November.
A source close to the mayor said last May’s 2nd ward candidate Tom Greaney was not under consideration as he stated he’s now moved into a more senior role in his career. While it’s unclear who may temporarily fill the 3rd ward seat, whispers are one likely candidate has been identified for the 2nd ward seat, an active resident of the Hudson Tea Building, Sidd Finch who was known to have been independently working on a Beth Mason recall with neighbors and other 2nd ward residents.
Approximately 100,000 electronic communications have been intercepted coming and going from the mayor’s office going back to early 2010. The City’s IT manager was arrested last November for setting up an automated file acquiring the communications. According to the FBI criminal complaint, unknown City officials had requested the confidential communications from the mayor’s office. It’s unclear if either mentioned in the complaint are Russo or Mason. Knowledgeable City Hall sources state neither are the people mentioned meaning the conspiracy has spread further than some believed.
The weekend desk at the FBI in Newark was not available to offer detailed comment but added they were confident any claims of acting as a double agent would be proven false.
Those wishing to speak on the ongoing criminal investigation with any possible useful information are advised to contact the FBI in Newark at: (973) 792-3000.
|Beth Mason had been an advocate for open government and transparency until she flipped on Reform early in 2009 and joined up with the Russo clan in a non-aggression pact to give her the mayor’s chair.|