TRENTON—Ethics advocate State Senator Loretta Weinberg, the Democratic Lt. Governor candidate, today asked former Republican US Attorney Chris Christie to explain his apparent contradiction that he was unaware of a sweetheart plea deal involving some of his closest political associates.
Under a deal struck by Christie’s office last year, a corrupt Morris County developer might walk without a single day in prison after engaging in one of the biggest tax frauds in New Jersey history – a $17.5 million scam.
A Christie campaign spokesperson claimed Christie knew nothing about the case until contacted by the Star-Ledger this week, but Christie’s signature appears on the four page charging document that set the stage for the plea deal.
“Chris Christie got caught in a political lie to cover up his role in a sweetheart deal that let a prominent Republican get a slap on the wrist in a tax fraud case involving tens of millions of dollars,” said Weinberg. “The fact that the guilty party was represented by two of Christie’s political colleagues makes his claim of ignorance impossible to swallow. Are we supposed to believe Christie’s campaign or Christie’s signature on a legal document? Come on Mr Christie – it’s time to tell us the whole truth.”
The tax fraud case took place in Christie’s political backyard- the Republican stronghold of Morris County. In addition, the defendant in the case was represented by two of Christie’s closest confidants and campaign contributors- Herb Stern and John Inglesino.
“This deal smells of political partisanship, cronyism and favoritism. It will be very hard for Mr. Christie to explain this sweetheart deal and his attempt to cover up his role in it,” concluded Senator Weinberg.
The defendant, Morton Salkind pleaded guilty in May 2008 and agreed to repay $17.5 million in back taxes within six months. However, the Star-Ledger reported, under the deal struck by Stern’s firm and Christie’s office, “Salkind officially pleaded guilty to just a single count of tax evasion of a much smaller amount — $276,000 – that he failed to pay in 2001.”
The newspaper wrote, “Federal guidelines recommend a prison sentence between 18 and 24 months for Salkind’s crime — a range that would have been higher if he pleaded guilty to a multimillion-dollar fraud.” Court records show that under the deal, Christie’s office allowed for Salkind’s attorneys to seek no prison time for their client at his sentencing next month.