“Russo for Hoboken” missing bank data reopens question if Michael Russo took bribe from FBI informant Solomon Dwek


Controversy explodes on “Russo for Hoboken” missing account transactions during FBI sting,
NJ ELEC investigating.

Questions surrounding what’s transpired in Councilman Michael Russo’s election account “Russo for Hoboken” since 2008 have been raised in a letter by Mayor Zimmer and is the subject of a page one story in the weekend paper.

The Hudson Reporter however missed the most important question.  Did Councilman Mike Russo deposit a $5,000 bribe from FBI informant Solomon Dwek into his Russo for Hoboken account?

The transactions, specifically deposits into the Russo for Hoboken bank account could reveal bonafide evidence of such a bribe Michael Russo has denied took place when he agreed to accept $5,000 from FBI informant Solomon Dwek in 2009 on FBI surveillance video.

The “Russo for Hoboken” controversy surrounds a number of unreported transactions during the exact time of the FBI’s massive Bid Rig III investigation.  Since the lunch, federal charges were incurred for everyone  at the Jersey City Light Horse Tavern except for Michael Russo.

In a letter to the Hoboken Reporter, Mayor Dawn Zimmer rebuked criticism for her family using legal services of Councilman Ravi Bhalla in a minor personal matter but raised major questions on her most intransigent council foes.

 Most pointedly, the bulls eye is on transactions for Councilman Michael Russo’s campaign account “Russo for Hoboken,” going back to September 2008 through 2009 when all activity and transaction reporting suddenly halted and was replaced by a new campaign account Russo for Council.

That time period spans important weighty matters, namely the discussion of illicit financial support from one Solomon Dwek, the FBI informant who worked for the Feds in the massive Operation Bid Rid III sting leading to the biggest corruption scandal in New Jersey history.

At a Jersey City White House Tavern lunch, the parties agreed $5,000 in check(s) would be made out to Russo for Hoboken as directed by Michael Russo.  Jersey City’s Maher Khalil was the go between who asked where the monies should be directed to and was himself a party to federal crimes taking over $72,000 from Solomon Dwek beginning in September 2008 to July 2009.  Khalil would later plead guilty to taking the corrupt loot in September of that year.

Khalil also routed monies to former Jersey City Council President Mariano Vega using ten different straw donors to direct illicit contributions into Vega’s campaign account.  Similar questions are now being asked if Khalil used the same method to deposit $5,000 into the Russo for Hoboken bank account.

The fourth person in attendance at the lunch, Denis Jaslow would also be snared in the FBI operation for his role in facilitating bribes with elected officials for $10,000 between November 2008 and July 2009.

Authors of the Jersey Sting wrote Russo had not “returned” for the money but others were not convinced as no meeting was required.  The terms of the transaction were already made and the method clear leaving only the actual deposit(s) into the Russo for Hoboken campaign coffers.

Based on the agreement on the payment of the bribe, the transaction would have been concluded with Dwek giving Khalil $5,000 and the money would be “washed” into the Russo for Hoboken account via check(s) similarly as he performed with straw donors for Mariano Vega.

The transactions in the Russo for Hoboken bank account covering the missing time periods since September 2009 are unavailable in any form.

No NJ ELEC campaign filing took place since September 2008, the time when FBI informant Solomon Dwek was directing tens of thousands of dollars to dozens of politicans and their political operatives.

On making the illicit transaction from FBI information Solomon Dwek, 
through middleman Khalil Maher, make out the check(s) to “Russo for Hoboken,” Mike Russo instructed.

The Wiley Coyote, Eric Kurta filed a complaint with NJ ELEC back in June, the governing body for election campaigns in the state.  NJ ELEC is beginning an investigation into the unaccounted transactions of the Russo for Hoboken election committee.

The Hudson Reporter weekend story focused on the $18,420.81 in the Russo for Hoboken account and appears to be pursuing its expenditures.  Michael Russo showed a bank statement from last month they say shows almost $1200 remaining in the account and offered to show cancelled checks showing where money was directed.

But the Hudson Reporter failed to focus on the most important questions about the the transactions involving THE DEPOSITS INTO the Russo for Hoboken bank account especially during 2009 when the FBI saw its informant Solomon Dwek handing out money to politicians and political operatives throughout the state.

In addition, the Russo for Hoboken campaign was inexplicably put aside and a new campaign account, Russo for Council begun.  The Hudson Reporter story doesn’t offer any explanation why when both campaign accounts were operating before the 2011 council elections.

Why was a second account opened leading into the 2011 council election?

A message was left for Councilman Michael Russo inquiring on “Russo for Hoboken.” MSV will update this story should he return the call.

Talking Ed Note:  There’s only one answer to the questions about Michael Russo and those answers can be found in the Russo for Hoboken bank statements – the deposits, not cancelled checks.

Related: Grafix Avenger originally raised the issue of the Russo for Hoboken account, the missing monies and the implication of Councilman Michael Russo taking the money back in April:

Grafix Avenger also correctly pointed out the Hudson Reporter’s Al Sullivan writing about MSV’s whereabouts and failing to ask the source in his “objective” get all sides reporting.

It’s the third time, we’ve seen stories published without any attempt to contact  MSV in as many weeks.  Two involved the Hudson Reporter and the other Hoboken Patch editor Claire Moses.

MSV is awaiting a call from Al Sullivan who has not accepted an invitation to do so.

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