In March 2011, two Pulitzer Prize winning journalists, released their book, "The Jersey Sting," describing how, in 2009, FBI informant Solomon Dwek, posing as a real-estate developer, offered bribes to New Jersey politicians. Hoboken's own mayor, Peter Cammarano, was convicted and jailed for accepting one of these bribes.
The book reveals, for the first time, that Councilman Russo had also met with the FBI informant in 2009. In the two years since that meeting, Councilman Russo had never disclosed that he met with Dwek. Moreover, the book claims that Russo had agreed to accept bribes in exchange for expediting the developer's building approvals.
Reacting to the revelations, the Hoboken Reporter contacted Russo who stated "...I made it very clear to Mr. Dwek that I would not accept cash contributions, and there was no quid pro quo. No bribe was discussed."
The same day, Hoboken Patch reported Russo stating that "...there was no talk of a bribe. Anyone who portrays that is lying."
A few days later, all of Russo's claims were revealed as lies when the authors publicly released the complete FBI video tapes of the Russo's meeting with Dwek. The tapes clearly show Russo agreeing to accept a bribe and specifying the account to deposit the money in: "Russo for Hoboken."
The tapes also reveal:
Councilman Russo complaining about anti-corruption Pay-to-Play laws and how they force him to make back room deals with developers.
Councilman Russo boasting how he hand-picked current city Councilwoman Beth Mason's campaign slate when she was running for Mayor in 2009 in order to give Russo "complete control" over the city.
Councilman Russo explaining how he obtained a government subsidized apartment for a Hoboken Housing Authority commissioner and paid 4 months of his rent in return for political favors.
At a City Council meeting April 6, 2011, Councilman Russo was forced to resign his positions as Vice President of the City Council and as Chairman of the City Budget and Finance Committee.
An excerpt of the FBI tapes of Councilman Russo's meeting with Solomon Dwek, including Councilman's Russo's agreement to accept a $5000 bribe. Link
"The Jersey Sting," by Ted Sherman and Josh Margolin, St. Martin's Press, 2011. Link
Transcripts of the unedited FBI tapes of Councilman Russo's meeting with Solomon Dwek. Link
The unedited FBI tapes of Councilman Russo's meeting with Solomon Dwek. Link
Hoboken Reporter article, March 28, 2011, by Ray Smith, where Councilman Russo denies discussion of a bribe in his meeting with Dwek. Link
Hoboken Patch article, March 28, 2011, by Claire Moses, where Russo states the book's authors are lying. Link
Hoboken Patch article, April 6, 2011, by Claire Moses, describing Councilman Russo being forced to resign his City Council positions. Link
The Million Dollar Quarter Coverup
In a City Council meeting on Dec. 6th 2007 Concilman Russo states that he's discovered $1 million in missing quarters from Hoboken parking meters. Russo demands an investigation.
Two weeks later Councilman Russo and Hoboken's Parking Director, family friend John Corea, backpedal on Councilman Russo's discovery and attempt to cover up by stating that an internal audit finds only $34.61 in missing parking revenue.
In spite of questions and protest from members of the public and other council members, Councilman Russo and his cousin, Councilwoman Theresa Castellano, insist that the matter has been cleared-up.
In December 2009, John Corea is indicted with conspiring to steal more than $600,000, and his co-conspirators plead guilty.
In April 2012, Corea is sentenced to serve seven years in state prison and ordered to pay $300,000 in restitution to the City of Hoboken.
Video excerpts of Dec. 6 2007 City Council meeting where Councilman Russo announces the missing money, and the Dec. 9 2007 Council meeting where Councilman Russo, Parking Director John Corea and Councilwoman Castellano backpedal and insist there is no missing money and that everything has been cleared up. Link
Hoboken Reporter article, July 23 2008 by Timothy Carroll, describing the investigation into the missing money and describing Parking Director John Corea's checkered past. Link
Hoboken Reporter article Dec. 11 2009 detailing Parking Director John Corea's indictment. Link
Hoboken Reporter article, April 2, 2012 by Stephen LaMarca, describing John Corea's sentencing. Link.
Family Health Care Coverup
In 2006, Councilman Russo's father, former Hoboken Mayor, and convicted felon, Anthony Russo, loses his health benefits from the City health care plan.
In a City Council meeting on December 3, 2008, Councilman Russo boasts that he's uncovered over 90 former employees illegally receiving health benefits from the city.
On March 11, 2011, Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer announced that a recent audit uncovered that Anthony Russo is still receiving health benefits on the City health care plan even though he was not qualified to receive them.
To date, Councilman Russo has refused to admit that he knew his father was illegally receiving health benefits.
Hoboken Reporter article, March 2, 2006, by Tom Jennemann, stating former Mayor Anthony Russo's termination of health benefits. Link
Video of Dec. 3, 2008 Hoboken City Council meeting where Councilman Russo claims to have uncovered evidence of employees illegally receiving health benefits. Link
Mayor Zimmer's letter to City Council, March 11, 2011, stating termination of former Mayor Russo's health benefits, in "Ethics Ordinance" on page 2 of linked document. Link
Hoboken Reporter article, March 16, 2011, in which Councilman Russo doesn't answer the question when asked if he knew his father was taking health benefits from the city. Instead, he blames Mayor Zimmer for the audit. Link
Housing Wait-List Jumping
Councilman Russo lives in an affordable housing unit at 10 Church Towers in Hoboken. His parents, Anthony and Michele, who have netted more than $1,000,000 in real estate dealings, and each of his two brothers, also have their own units in the building.
The Hoboken Reporter states that, "In 1983, a 600-name wait list to get into Church Towers was closed by the federal government because it was so long. The units were turning over at a rate of fewer than 10 per year. At that rate, it would take until 2043 to offer apartments to everyone on the list."
In spite of the closed wait list, Councilman Russo received an apartment of his own in 2004.
When questioned by a reporter in 2009, Councilman Russo was unable to explain how he jumped to the front of the wait-list.
Hoboken Reporter article, February 1, 2009, by Tim Carroll, describing Russo's vague statements on how he managed to jump to the front of the wait-list. Link
Not Far From the Tree
In 2003, after a 10 year FBI investigation, Councilman Russo's father, Anthony Russo, was indicted on charges of extortion and mail fraud. Anthony Russo served as Hoboken Mayor from 1993 to 2001.
In 2004, Anthony Russo was sentenced to 33 months in jail and ordered to pay the City of Hoboken over $330,000 in restitution.
To date, Anthony Russo has only paid back approximately $7,000 to the city, despite the fact that his wife, Michele Russo, made well over $1,000,000 during and after Anthony Russo's tenure as Mayor. The family also owns a $400,000 beach house in Belmar, NJ.
Hoboken Reporter article, Sept. 29, 2003, by Tom Jenneman, stating former Hoboken Mayor Anthony Russo's indictment after a 10 year FBI investigation. Link
Hoboken Reporter article, May 17, 2005, by Tom Jenneman, describes extent of Hoboken Mayor Anthony's Russo's corrupt dealings. Link
Hoboken Journal article, Nov. 5, 2010, stating that Anthony Russo still owes the City of Hoboken over $300,000. Link
In 1998, Councilman's Michael Russo's mother, Michele Russo, was cited in an FBI report, for extorting $5 per tow from a local towing company.
At the time, Michele Russo was a Hoboken Parking Authority Commissioner while her husband, Anthony Russo, was Hoboken Mayor.
In 2001, when Michele Russo was serving as a School Board Trustee, an elected position, she was charged with violating the New Jersey State Schools Ethics Act.
The charge stemmed from Russo obtaining public school students' personal information in order to mail out campaign literature for her husband, Mayor Anthony Russo.
Between 2000 and 2002, Michele Russo made in excess of $1,000,000 in real estate commissions serving as exclusive realtor for new housing developments approved while her husband, Anthony Russo, was Mayor.
Hoboken Reporter article, Jan. 24, 2006, by Tom Jenneman, describes Michele Russo's extortion operation. Link
New Jersey State Schools Ethics Commission Decision on Violation, Feb. 26 2001, explaining why Michele was charged with violating the state's School Ethics Act. Link
Listing of Michele Russo's real estate commissions totaling in excess of $1,000,000 for 400 9th St, 901 Madison St., and 915 Madison St. between 2000 and 2002. Link
The Beach House
In 2001, Anthony and Michele Russo purchased a beach house in Belmar, NJ, worth over $400,000.
Following Anthony Russo's conviction, ownership of the deed was transferred to Michele, Councilman Russo and his brother Anthony, in June 2005 for the sum of $1.
By transferring the deed to Councilman Russo and family members, Anthony Russo ensured the property could not be seized by the government as payment towards his court-ordered restitution.
Original deed to Anthony (Senior) and Michele Russo dated November 26, 2001. Link
Transferred deed to Michele, Michael and Anthony (Junior) Russo dated June 21, 2005. Link
Brawl in the Family
In 1995, Councilman Russo, his brother Nicholas, and their father, Mayor Anthony Russo, attacked a polling station worker who was attempting to take a picture of Anthony Russo in the act of violating election laws.
Councilman Russo and his brother threw the worker to the ground and Anthony Russo smashed the worker's camera with his foot.
New York Times article, June 15, 1995 by Andy Newmann, detailing the attack of the polling station worker. Link