New Jersey Insurance Executive, Political Power Broker Charged With Racketeering

By | June 18, 2024

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin is charging a well-known New Jersey insurance executive and long-time Democratic political influencer with leading a criminal enterprise in the state for the past dozen years.

George E. Norcross III, executive chairman of Camden-based insurance agency Conner Strong & Buckelew (CSB) and chairman of the board of trustees of Cooper Health, is among six people alleged to have acquired property rights and tax credits in Camden and elsewhere through coercion, extortion, and other criminal acts. Norcross and five alleged associates have been all charged with racketeering.

Platkin said the 13-count indictment came after a years-long investigation into the activities of Norcross and his associates in South Jersey and elsewhere. The indictment filed in Superior Court alleges that from about 2012 through the present, the Norcross Enterprise used coercion, extortion, and other criminal acts to tailor legislation to serve its interests, obtain property and property rights on the Camden waterfront, collect as much as $240 million in government-issued tax credits, and control and influence government officials including a former mayor of Camden.

The defendants include Norcross III, who now resides in Florida; his brother Philip A. Norcross, an attorney and CEO of Parker McCay, a New Jersey law firm; William M. Tambussi, a partner at the law firm of Brown and Connery and counsel to the Camden County Democratic Committee; Dana L. Redd, currently CEO of Camden Community Partnership and former mayor of Camden (2010 to 2018); Sidney R. Brown, CEO of NFI, a trucking and logistics company; and John J. O’Donnell, an executive with The Michaels Organization, a residential development company.

The defendants are also charged with various other counts including financial facilitation, misconduct by a corporate official, and conspiring to commit theft by extortion.

“On full display in this indictment is how a group of unelected, private businessmen used their power and influence to get government to aid their criminal enterprise and further its interests,” said Platkin in announcing the charges.

The charges and allegations are accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in court.

According to CNN, Norcross attended the news conference by Platkin and “angrily denounced the charges, later calling Platkin a ‘coward’ and demanding a speedy trial.”

Michael Critchley, attorney for Norcross, did not reply to a request for comment by press time.

Henry Klingeman, Redd’s attorney, told CNN that the former mayor has done nothing wrong and had cooperated with the grand jury investigation.

Norcross is the brother of U.S. Rep. Donald Norcross (D), who is not named in the indictment.

The charges do not implicate other employees of CSB insurance agency. The agency dates back to 1959 and has seven offices in the Northeast.

The indictment describes the Norcross Enterprise as a group of individuals associated in fact although not a legal entity who engaged in activities affecting trade and commerce in New Jersey and elsewhere. The purposes of the conspiracy included preserving and enhancing the “power, reputation, and profits” of the enterprise and its members and associates as well as preserving and enhancing the “reputation and political power” of Norcross, the court documents maintain.

During the 12 years cited in the indictment, CSB was either owned in part or in full by holding companies controlled by, or trusts for the benefit of, Norcross. Philip Norcross also held a small share of the holding company that controlled CSB, the documents say.

The indictment describes Norcross as being influential in state and local politics: “He exercises control of Democratic politics throughout south Jersey, and beyond, by controlling the manner in which candidates are endorsed and supported by the local party apparatus and given preferential locations on the ballot, and through fundraising.”

The indictment claims that the enterprise members and associates used their political influence to tailor The Economic Opportunity Act of 2013 to their preferences and then after the legislation was enacted in September 2013, extorted and coerced others to obtain properties and property rights on the Camden waterfront.

The indictment maintains that Cooper Health and CSB benefitted and occupied some of the properties the enterprise obtained interests in and sold the tax credits they obtained for millions of dollars.

According to the attorney general, as of 2023, CSB had received $8.6 million in state tax credits which it sold for $7.9 million. Also, for the period of 2012 to 2023, Norcross received approximately $29 million in wages from CSB, according to the indictment.

The attorney general’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Newark office participated In the investigation.

The arraignment is scheduled for July 9 before Superior Court Judge Peter E. Warshaw Jr. in Mercer County.

Topics Agencies New Jersey

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