NEWARK - A former New Jersey health official charged in the state's largest corruption sting is no longer facing criminal charges.
Joseph Castagna was one of 44 people arrested in summer 2009. At the time, he was a health officer with the Jersey City Department of Health and Human Services.
On Monday, a federal judge in Newark dismissed an official extortion charge against him.
Castagna was accused of taking $5,000 from a federal informant posing as a corrupt developer and passing it to Michael Manzo, a former fire inspector and Jersey City council candidate. The money allegedly was meant for Manzo so that he would give the developer preference on a building project once Manzo was elected. Manzo's bid for office was unsuccessful.
The U.S. Attorney's Office, which charged Castagna in July 2009, did not comment Tuesday on the dismissal,
Castagna became the second defendant to have his charges dropped. Hudson County employee Richard Greene had a similar charge against him dropped in 2010.
The majority of the defendants charged in 2009 have pleaded guilty. But several, including Manzo, are facing dismissals after a judge ruled in 2010 that they should not have been charged with official extortion if they were not already in public office.
In five trials stemming from the arrests, four people were convicted and two, Ridgefield Mayor Anthony Suarez and former state Assemblyman L. Harvey Smith, were acquitted.
Voicemail messages left Tuesday for Castagna and his attorney were not returned.