Bribes, Payoffs, Politics: Two more plead in Atlantic City corruption case

Two more plead in Atlantic City corruption case
10/4/2006, The Associated Press   

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) — An Atlantic City corruption scandal widened Wednesday as one current and one former city council member each pleaded guilty to attempted extortion.

Councilman Ramon Rosario pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to an attempted extortion charge, admitting he took $14,000 from an undercover FBI agent posing as a Wall Street financier and from an FBI informant who wanted to win city contracts.

Gibb Jones, who resigned his city council seat in August, pleaded to similar charges, admitting he took more than $5,000 from unidentified businessmen between 2003 and January 2006 in exchange for help getting city contracts.

They were the second and third city officials convicted in the operation in the resort city, a development hotspot with a history of raucous politics and corruption.

Prosecutors say the investigation is continuing, which may be a reason some details, such as the identities of the businessmen in Jones' case, were not revealed.

Rosario admitted to a crime similar to the one then-City Council President Craig Callaway pleaded guilty to in August. That same month the informant, Terry Jacobs, pleaded guilty to drug charges.

Rosario, 48, admitted that he took payments in 2004 and 2005 as a thank-you for supporting a developer's bid to get work in redeveloping the former site of a department store and in return for future support of a developer seeking work to redevelop Bader Field, the old municipal airport that closed last week.

That 190-acre plot not far from the Boardwalk is coveted by developers who envision anything from another casino to an amusement park there.

Rosario said he did not know that when he was accepting bribes, Callaway was also.

After his plea Wednesday, Rosario was contrite.

"I'll take the full responsibility for it," he said, adding that he was resigning his seat on the 9-member city council.

Jones, 79, declined to comment after his court proceeding. Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Eicher said Jones was caught in the same operation as the other officials, but he hinted that Jones got his bribes from someone other than Jacobs and the FBI agent.

"If we're involved in making the payments, we know exactly what it is," Eicher said.

Federal prosecutors said both men would likely receive prison sentences of 2 to 2 1/2 years. Both are scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 1.

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