the staff of the Ridgewood blog
Bloomfield NJ, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced that former Bloomfield Township Councilman Elias N. Chalet was sentenced to state prison today for soliciting and accepting a bribe of $15,000 from a business owner, promising the owner that he would use his position on the council to ensure that the township went ahead with its planned purchase of the man’s commercial property.
Chalet, 55, of Bloomfield, N.J., who formerly was the councilman for Bloomfield’s First Ward, was sentenced today to five years in state prison – including two years of parole ineligibility under New Jersey’s Anti-Corruption Statute – by Superior Court Judge Martin G. Cronin in Essex County. Chalet pleaded guilty on May 9 to a second-degree charge of bribery in official and political matters. He forfeited $15,000 in funds, representing the bribe payments he accepted. He also forfeited his public position and is permanently barred from elected office and public employment in New Jersey. Chalet was arrested on Nov. 16, 2015 and was indicted by a state grand jury in January 2016.
Deputy Attorneys General Brian Faulk and Cynthia Vazquez prosecuted Chalet and handled the sentencing for the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Chalet was charged in an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption North Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau.
“Corrupt officials like Chalet undermine public trust and good government,” said Attorney General Grewal. “We will not tolerate elected officials who are willing to sell their influence – and sell out their constituents – for an envelope of cash.”
“We are committed to seeking tough sentences for public officials who engage in this type of misconduct,” said Director Veronica Allende of the Division of Criminal Justice. “We urge anyone with information about public corruption to contact us confidentially, as the businessman in this case did, so we can investigate these crimes and aggressively prosecute those responsible.”
“Chalet abused his position by soliciting a bribe and undermining his role as an elected official,” said Colonel Patrick Callahan, Acting Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “This prison sentence is a result of the hard work by the State Police Official Corruption North Unit and Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, and we will continue to work with our partners to ensure trust is maintained with public officials.”
Chalet initially met with the business owner on Oct. 8, 2015 in front of Chalet’s real estate office on Broad Street in Bloomfield. Chalet told the business owner that the township’s planned purchase of his commercial property would go through only if the owner gave Chalet $15,000 in cash. The business owner promptly reported this to the New Jersey State Police, and the state commenced its investigation.
In a subsequent meeting on Oct. 21, 2015 at Chalet’s real estate office, Chalet again discussed that the business owner would pay $15,000 in return for Chalet ensuring and facilitating that the property be purchased by the township. That meeting was recorded. Chalet and the business owner agreed that the business owner would make an initial payment of $10,000 in cash, with the balance of $5,000 to be paid after the township purchased the property. While Chalet initially asked the business owner to pay the cash through a middle man, Chalet ultimately agreed to receive the payments directly.
The bribe payments were made at Chalet’s real estate office. Chalet accepted the first cash payment of $10,000 from the business owner on Oct. 23, 2015. Chalet was arrested on Nov. 16, 2015 at his real estate office after he accepted the remaining $5,000 in cash from the business owner. Those meetings also were recorded. The vote on the purchase of the business property was scheduled for the day Chalet was arrested. He was arrested before the vote.
When the New Jersey State Police moved to arrest Chalet minutes after he accepted the final cash payment of $5,000, Chalet remained locked in his real estate office for approximately 45 minutes, refusing to respond to a detective who repeatedly knocked on the door and a window of the office.
Relatives of Chalet approached detectives at the scene and tried to reach Chalet on his cell phone. They reported that Chalet was in the bathroom. It is believed that Chalet flushed the $5,000 in cash down the toilet to prevent State Police detectives from finding it when they searched his office after his arrest.
Attorney General Grewal commended the detectives and attorneys who investigated and prosecuted the case for the State Police Official Corruption North Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau. Former Deputy Attorney General Jane Khodarkovsky presented the case to the state grand jury. Deputy Attorneys General Faulk, Vazquez and Khodarkovsy prosecuted the case under the supervision of Deputy Attorney General Anthony Picione, Chief of the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau, and Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Manis, Deputy Bureau Chief.
Attorney General Grewal and Director Allende noted that the Division of Criminal Justice has a toll-free Corruption Tipline 1-866-TIPS-4CJ for the public to report corruption, financial crime and other illegal activities confidentially. The public can also log on to the Division webpage at www.njdcj.org to report suspected wrongdoing confidentially.
The Attorney General’s Office has an Anti-Corruption Reward Program that offers a reward of up to $25,000 for tips from the public leading to a conviction for a crime involving public corruption. Information is posted on the Attorney General’s website at: www.nj.gov/oag/corruption/reward.html.