8th corruption bust this week: NJ official charged in theft of clean-up fund
PENNS GROVE — State prosecutors say political corruption in this Salem County borough was a family affair with a councilman and his nephew ripping off the municipal Clean Communities Program.
Democratic Councilman Carl Washington Jr., 46, and Lavar H. Ledbetter, 31, of Mullica Hill, have been charged in the theft of $8,200 from the program, which was meant to be use to clean up public parks and property.
The charges were announced a day after state Attorney General Gurbir Grewal revealed that five North Jersey officials, including the president of the Jersey City Board of Education and a former assemblyman, had been charged with accepting thousands of dollars in bribes — including $10,000 in cash stuffed in a coffee cup.
The news also came the same week that state prosecutors charged the mayor of Middlesex Borough with using a charity to launder $190,000 that he stole from local campaigns.
Washington has been a councilman in the Delaware River borough of about 5,000 residents since 2011.
Investigators said Washington doctored documents and created fake checks that the two had organizations run by associates cash and then provide kick backs.
They were both charged with second-degree official misconduct and conspiracy and third-degree misapplication of entrusted and public property. Washington could face a mandatory minimum five years in prison with no chance of parole if he's found guilty of the anti-corruption official misconduct law.
New Jersey 101.5 did not know Friday whether the two men had attorneys who could speak on their behalf.
This was not Washington's first run-in with the law.
A 2015 report by Fox 25 Philadelphia found that Washington had been driving with a suspended license and that he had racked up motor vehicle violations for cutting bad checks and violating a court order.
Grewal said Washington "shamelessly betrayed" his oath of office "for his own enrichment."
The corruption charges this week came from investigations by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability, which Grewal created in September 2018.
The office accepts tips and information and offers rewards of up to $25,000 for tips that lead to a conviction.
Sergio Bichao is deputy digital editor at New Jersey 101.5. Send him news tips: Call 609-359-5348 or email email@example.com.