Monday, February 14, 2011

Solomon Dwek a liability in trials? 

When Solomon Dwek ran his national real estate Ponzi scheme, he used the power of persuasion to con relatives, investors and even a major bank out of tens of millions of dollars.

When Dwek later worked undercover for the FBI, 46 politicians, political operatives and rabbis were arrested on money laundering and bribery charges, mostly because Dwek had convinced them he could be trusted.

Now, though, Dwek's silver tongue may have lost its luster.

In the last year, the developer has had mixed results convincing federal juries that he is indeed telling the truth. The tally: one conviction, one partial conviction and one acquittal. Federal prosecutors didn't bother calling him to a fourth trial.

"Witnesses, unlike wine, don't get better with time," said New York lawyer Stuart Slotnick, a former trial attorney in the Brooklyn district attorney's office who has followed the Dwek case. "Generally the more witnesses testify and the more they are cross-examined by defense attorneys, the greater the holes in their stories appear."

Dwek's testimony helped the government secure corruption convictions against former Jersey City Deputy Mayor Leona Beldini and former state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt, R-Ocean. Beldini, though, was acquitted of two more serious charges.

The third case ended in an acquittal when Ridgefield Mayor Anthony R. Suarez was found not guilty of bribery, conspiracy and extortion charges. Dwek was not used in the fourth corruption case, that of former Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith, D-Hudson, who was eventually acquitted.

Those two losses were the first defeat for the government in a corruption case since 1999, when four West New York police officers beat racketeering charges. Since that time, the U.S. Attorney's Office had gained guilty pleas or convictions in more than 150 corruption cases.

Dwek, formerly of Ocean Township, endured several days of intense grilling on the witness stand in both the Beldini and Van Pelt trials last year.

Defense attorneys Brian Neary and Robert R. Fuggi Jr. outlined various unsavory facets of Dwek's life, from the bribes he admitted paying to secure his religious school diploma, to the methods he used to bilk his uncle, Joseph Dwek, and his mentor Jack Adjmi, of millions of dollars.


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