Five current and former New Jersey public officials are facing charges of accepting bribes following a major corruption investigation, the state’s attorney general announced.
The five defendants are charged with taking thousands of dollars in bribes from one cooperating witness in the form of campaign contributions, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said. In return, the officials promised the cooperating witness, who is a tax attorney, they would vote or use their office of influence to hire or continue to hire his law firm for lucrative government legal work.
The defendants include Sudhan Thomas, incumbent Jersey City school board president, and former State Assemblyman Jason O’Donnell, who ran an unsuccessful campaign to be mayor of Bayonne in 2018.
Some of the multi-thousand-dollar bribes came in envelopes or paper bags filled with cash -- or, in one case, a coffee cup stuffed with cash -- and were delivered to the defendants by the tax attorney at restaurants, parking lots, a political fundraiser and a campaign headquarters.
Thomas was charged with accepting $35,000 in cash bribes, with $10,000 delivered in one instance and $25,000 delivered on another date.
In return for the cash payments, Thomas allegedly agreed to arrange for the tax attorney to be hired as a special counsel for the Jersey City Board of Education. His misconduct took place between May and July 2019. Thomas lost his bid for re-election to the Jersey City School Board in November.
O’Donnell, former state assemblyman, is charged with accepting a $10,000 bribe. O’Donnell allegedly accepted the bribe in so-called “street money” for his mayoral campaign from the cooperating witness in April and May 2018. O’Donnell allegedly agreed to provide him with tax work from Bayonne if elected mayor.
In the complaint, the tax attorney told O’Donnell “I just wanna be your tax guy,” to which O’Donnell responded, “Done.”