George Norcross, allies charged in wide-ranging New Jersey racketeering case

South Jersey power broker George E. Norcross III and key figures in his Democratic political machine were indicted Monday in a wide-ranging indictment on racketeering charges, alleging they used their influence over city government to corruptly acquire lucrative real estate waterfront and development rights in Camden.

Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin unveiled the 13 charges at a news conference in Trenton, with Norcross, 68, sitting in the front row.

It accuses him and five co-defendants – including his brother Philip, his longtime lawyer William Tambussi and former Camden Mayor Dana Redd – of various acts of racketeering, financial facilitation, corporate officer misconduct and official misconduct that could put them in prison for years.

The allegations come days after Platkin’s office accused two Norcross allies on the South Jersey Transportation Authority board of abusing their positions to seek revenge against a Norcross enemy.

Bringing criminal charges against Norcross himself – not to mention several of his key allies – threatens both his political legacy and the narrative he has helped build over the past decade of Camden’s recovery from decades of poverty and financial disinvestment.

They also threaten to upend New Jersey’s political map ahead of the state’s 2025 gubernatorial race. Democrats running for governor with Norcross’s support include his childhood friend and one of his closest political allies, former state Sen. Stephen Sweeney.

The real estate investigation, which has been ongoing since at least 2022, is the latest investigation by state and federal authorities targeting Norcross and his network. But this is the first-ever case to result in charges against the 68-year-old Camden County insurance executive who, although he has never held elected office, is considered one of New Jersey’s most influential political figures.

Over the past quarter-century, Norcross has transformed the South Jersey Democratic machine into a juggernaut that has pushed key allies into all levels of politics and government, from city councils and local party committees to government agencies and the state legislature. His support helped elect his brother Donald Norcross to Congress in 2013 and gave Sweeney a leadership position in the state Senate in 2009.

But Norcross’s machine has been hampered in recent years by losses at the ballot box and in court — most notably Sweeney’s 2021 election defeat and a March ruling by a federal judge requiring a redesign of the state’s ballots, which has long benefited candidates backed by county partisan organizations such as Norcross.”

Norcross said he and his business partners have invested more than $300 million in Camden, much of it made possible by the $245 million in state tax incentives his company and two other companies were awarded under the New Jersey Economic Opportunity Act of 2013 . In his final State of the State address in 2018, former Republican Gov. Chris Christie praised the insurance executive for his “relentless will” and said Camden “has no better cheerleader and investor.”

As the investigation against him intensified, Norcross repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and noted that previous attempts by state prosecutors and the FBI to charge him with crimes had failed.

Monday’s indictment is not his first clash with Platkin.

In 2019, a task force Platkin helped create under Gov. Phil Murphy found that companies with ties to political figures, including Norcross, may have made false claims to obtain tax breaks from the state Economic Development Authority .

The task force questioned the validity of several loans granted to companies including Norcross insurance brokerage, Conner Strong & Buckelew and Cooper Health System, a Camden-based hospital chain where Norcross serves as chairman of the board.

Norcross unsuccessfully sued Murphy over the investigation, denying any wrongdoing and dismissing the task force’s work as a political hit job. Conner Strong and his business partners received the first tranche of tax breaks in 2022, which are spread over 10 years and can be used to cover tax liabilities or sold for cash.

Last year, The Inquirer reported that investigators had issued several subpoenas and conducted dozens of interviews in connection with Norcross and his allies’ purchase of parcels of real estate in Camden and their alleged attempts to eliminate potential rivals.

” READ MORE: Sources say NJ AG corruption investigation focuses on George Norcross’ influence over Camden waterfront development

The deals being analyzed include some of the biggest names in real estate and business in the Philadelphia region, including Carl Dranoff, the Philadelphia developer behind such residential properties as Symphony House and Arthaus on South Broad Street; William P. Hankowsky, former CEO of Liberty Property Trust, which built both Comcast towers and rebuilt the Navy Yard; and Ira Lubert, a prominent real estate and private equity investor.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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