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Hoboken’s ‘cup of coffee mayor’ Cammarano admits taking bribes

Photo Credit: Cliffview Pilot

Peter J. Cammarano III, Hoboken’s cup-of-coffee mayor, admitted in federal court in Newark today that he took $25,000  in illegal campaign contributions — most of them at the Malibu Diner — from an undercover informant posing as a shady developer.

Peter Cammarano

Caught in the largest corruption net ever dragged across New Jersey, Cammarano, 32, was knock ed from office after only three weeks.

Despite his age and inexperience, he ranks as the FBI’s biggest fish so far, from a catch that included two other mayors, two state legislators, five rabbis and one man accused to trying to sell a human kidney.

Only one person in the sweep has been convicted after a trial so far — but that’s because 16 have pleaded guilty.

“This case serves as an unfortunate example of how pervasive public corruption can be considering the fact that someone so young in his political career can succumb to such enticements,” said Michael B. Ward, who heads the FBI’s Newark field office.

“The public should expect its officials to be held to the highest levels of integrity and anything less will be vigorously pursued and investigated,” Ward said.

Based on the government’s sentencing guidelines, Cammarano faces at least two years in federal prison, in addition to whatever fines U.S. District Judge Jose Linares may impose at an Aug. 3 sentencing.

“Peter Cammarano has accepted responsibility for his conduct,” said his lawyer, Joseph A. Hayden. “After he finishes the criminal process, I expect he will rebuild his life and once again be a possitive member of society.”

Less than three weeks after he raised his hand to take the oath of office, Cammarano was led into a waiting car by FBI agents and taken to their headquarters in Newark.

It then took him more than a week to finally have the stones to resign, amid an outcry from residents and a not-so-subtle nudge from former Gov. Jon Corzine. (See: Hoboken mayor Cammarano quits amid FBI bribery charges )

Cammarano was caught on tape telling government cooperator Solomon Dwek last spring that he had the election sewn up.

“I could be indicted, and I’m still gonna win 85 to 95 percent” in a runoff, he said, during the secretly recorded conversation at the waterfront city’s popular Malibu Diner.

With him was another FBI operative and Michael Schaffer, a commissioner with the Hudson County Utilities Authority.

Despite a massive fraud in which Dwek swindled $50 million, he was from the Jersey Shore area, and neither Cammarano nor Schaffer knew him.

For dessert, Schaffer collected an envelope stuffed with cash for Cammarano from the trunk of the cooperator’s car, the government said.

It wasn’t the first time — and wouldn’t be the last. (See: For upstart mayor, it all began at the Malibu Diner )

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