BY MARK ROSMAN
Prominent Monmouth County developer Anthony Spalliero was arrested Tuesday morning and charged with offering cash bribes and corrupt payments totaling approximately $143,500 to Matthew Scannapieco, who was the mayor of Marlboro from 1992 to 2003, and to the then director of the Monmouth County Board of Freeholders.
U.S. Attorney Christopher J. Christie made the announcement of Spalliero’s arrest in a news release.
In recent weeks, Spalliero has been linked in published reports to corruption cases involving Scannapieco, who has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes from a developer, and to Harry Larrison, the freeholder director from 1983 to 2004 who was charged last week with accepting bribes from two Monmouth County developers between 2001 and 2003.
Prior to Tuesday, Spalliero had not been mentioned by name in any previous news release or charging document issued by the U.S. Attorney.
Spalliero, 64, of Hazlet, was charged with four counts of offering and making cash payments to influence and reward the public officials in connection with business he was transacting in Marlboro and Monmouth County.
He appeared before Judge Ronald J. Hedges in Newark on Tuesday afternoon. Bail was set at $250,000. Spalliero said he would put up his son Vincent’s home in Aberdeen to secure the bail. He did not enter a plea and no future court date was set. Spalliero is allowed to travel to Florida for doctor’s visits.
“The actions alleged against this defendant are the kind that corrupt the entire political system,” Christie said. “They corrupt government, lay waste to our communities and betray our trust. All those who violated our laws — public servants and businessmen alike — will be held to account.”
Christie said the investigation into public corruption in Marlboro and in Monmouth County will continue.
In recent weeks, Spalliero has been at the heart of a controversy in Howell, where he has approval to build an adult community known as Colts Neck Crossing on Route 33. The Howell Township Council recently concluded that donations that Spalliero and his partner in Crawford Holdings, Terry Sherman, made to the Monmouth Democratic Party unduly influenced a previous council that voted for a zoning change that paved the way for Colts Neck Crossing to be approved.
In regard to Spalliero’s arrest on Tuesday, Howell Mayor Joseph M. DiBella said, “I am very pleased that (U.S. Attorney) Chris Christie continues to take the lead in helping to reform government and end corruption.”
Sherman told Greater Media Newspapers he was not going to comment on the arrest of his business associate.
According to the criminal complaint made public on Tuesday by the U.S. Attorney, Spalliero offered and paid Scannapieco approximately $135,000 between 2001 and 2003 in conjunction with three development deals.
Count One of the criminal complaint charges that between 2001 and 2002, Spalliero paid Scannapieco approximately $100,000 in exchange for Scannapieco’s assistance in obtaining rezoning and land use approvals for a proposed development at the site of the former Marlboro Airport and surrounding property. In December 2002, during a recorded conversation, a business associate of Spalliero allegedly offered to provide a member of the Marlboro Township Council with approximately $150,000 in campaign funds in exchange for that council member’s support of rezoning and land use proposals that Spalliero sought for the site of the Marlboro Airport and surrounding property.
The council never rezoned the airport property and no development has taken place at the vacant Route 79 airport or on the surrounding properties that were allegedly targeted by Spalliero.
Count Two of the criminal complaint charges that between 2001 and 2002, Spalliero gave Scannapieco cash payments totaling approximately $10,000 in exchange for Scannapieco’s assistance in obtaining an easement from a railroad line near Dutch Lane and Buckley Road in Marlboro.
Count Three of the complaint charges that between 2002 and 2003, Spalliero gave Scannapieco cash payments totaling approximately $25,000 in exchange for Scannapieco’s support of land use approvals for the construction of a retail store at Route 9 and Route 520 in Marlboro.
Count Four of the complaint charges Spalliero with offering approximately $8,500 to the freeholder director in exchange for the freeholder director’s assistance with various development projects in Monmouth County. The freeholder director is not specifically identified in the complaint.
Larrison was the freeholder director from 1983 until he stepped down from the county’s governing body in December due to health reasons. Larrison, 78, is battling three types of cancer.
According to the information provided by the U.S Attorney, the bribes to the freeholder director were allegedly paid on two occasions: First, in 2001 and 2002, Spalliero had a Monmouth County official deliver $5,000 in cash to the freeholder director at his home. Second, in 2002 and 2003, Spalliero and another developer paid the freeholder director $3,500 in cash, again by having the Monmouth County official deliver the money to the freeholder director at his home. The complaint alleges that the second payment was in exchange for the freeholder director’s assistance on a planning issue for a Marlboro development.
Each of the four counts charges Spalliero with offering corrupt payments in matters involving local governments who receive federal funds. Each charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Christie credited special agents of the FBI’s Red Bank Resident Agency, under the direction of Acting Special Agent in Charge Pedro Ruiz, with the investigation of Spalliero and the wider corruption probe in Monmouth County.
Greater Media Newspapers staff writers Kathy Baratta and Tali Israeli contributed to this story.