NEWARK — A federal judge revoked the bail of the government’s chief informant in New Jersey’s biggest corruption sting Tuesday, calling him “an extremely cunning liar” and ordering him sent to prison to await sentencing.
The decision by U.S. District Judge Jose Linares followed the revelation last week that the informant, disgraced real estate speculator Solomon Dwek, was arrested last month in Maryland for failing to return a rental car and later lied about the incident to his FBI handlers. Both actions violate his 2006 cooperation agreement with the government, signed when Dwek agreed to become an informant after his arrest in a $50 million bank fraud.
Dwek had been free on $10 million bail since his 2006 arrest. His attorneys and the government both had sought Tuesday to have him placed under home confinement with electronic monitoring, but Linares went further.
“He has clearly violated his order of release in this matter,” Linares told the courtroom. “He has proven to be a consummate defrauder and an extremely cunning liar.”
Linares also said he would consider moving Dwek’s sentencing up from next March to this fall. Dwek initially faced a maximum 40-year sentence for the 2006 bank fraud, but under a 2009 plea agreement would face nine to 11 years. Linares said he could use his discretion to levy a harsher penalty.
Dwek was led out of the courtroom by marshals and didn’t comment. His attorney, Michael Himmel, also didn’t comment on the ruling. Himmel noted during the hearing that Dwek has six children, and the youngest is 8 weeks old.
Dwek has testified in several trials stemming from the arrests of 46 people in 2009 that were accomplished through his secret videotapes of meetings with public officials and members of Orthodox Jewish sects in Brooklyn and New Jersey.
His May 31 arrest only came to the attention of the FBI two weeks ago, during a routine criminal background check of potential witnesses in the trial of former Secaucus Mayor Dennis Elwell. FBI Special Agent Sean McCarthy testified at Tuesday’s hearing that Dwek tried to claim that someone stole his identity to rent the car. He also initially denied having rented the car at all.
The government didn’t call Dwek to testify against Elwell.
In an odd twist, Elwell’s defense team may call Dwek to testify this week in the hopes of discrediting him. On the witness stand Tuesday, Elwell testified he repeatedly tried to tell Dwek that he couldn’t help him with building approvals in Secaucus.
In the sting operation, Dwek posed as a corrupt real estate developer looking to influence elected and appointed officials to help him with building projects. He also videotaped meetings with rabbis and other members of his Orthodox Jewish community in which he sought to launder money that he told them was proceeds from tax frauds and the sales of counterfeit handbags.
More than half of the people arrested in the 2009 sting have pleaded guilty, but Dwek’s performance at trials has produced mixed results. In four trials, three defendants have been convicted but juries acquitted two others, Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez and former state Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith. In addition, several defendants are expected to have their sentences vacated or charges dropped after a federal appeals court ruled the U.S. Attorney’s Office misapplied the law in charging them.