TOMS RIVER, NJ – It has been almost three years since I was invited to the FBI Red Bank field office as the federal government continued probing political corruption in Ocean County. It was an enjoyable sunny summer late afternoon and I didn’t know what to expect. At first, I thought maybe I did something wrong, but after a few minutes, the lawyers and agents at the office made me feel comfortable.
After a few hours of answering questions, I left the Red Bank field office feeling good that political corruption in Ocean County was on notice. They asked me questions about rumors circulated on the internet that claim I am part of some local political underground ‘in bed’ with politicians. The FBI team I met with learned very quickly I was not. Of course, those rumors were fabricated by agents of the very people the FBI is currently investigating, the Ocean County Republican establishment. It quickly became clear to them what was going on and why so many in the establishment circle have been working overtime for years, with no effect, to discredit me and Shore News Network. It’s in their best interest to shut down the only news source at the shore looking into their corruption.
They asked questions about developers, religious freedoms, local ordinances, mayors, council people, and different projects in town. Of course, had very little to offer them other than what little firsthand knowledge I had on some of the topics through our investigative journalism here at the Jersey Shore.
I left feeling good, knowing that the wheels of justice were indeed spinning and spinning against those that have put so much time into harassing me and Shore News Network because of our own investigative journalism and political corruption stories.
The team investigating Ocean County this time around was a solid one made up of seasoned anti-corruption veterans who took down Solomon Dwek, Michael Ritacco, Carmine Inteso and former GOP Chairman George Gilmore. Surely they are a capable team of professionals who will build a solid case and close it with convictions.
That was 2019. A few months later COVID-19 hit and then the world shut down. As the months turned into years, the hopes of seeing corrupt politicians being led out of public buildings in handcuffs seemed to fade. It seemed like the hammer would never fall and the local corruption investigation simply got lost in the bureaucracy of the federal government.
I kept thinking to a comment made by one of the FBI lawyer who said the agency isn’t in the business of losing cases and for an investigation to go to trial, it needed to be a rock solid case. I was beginning to think the corrupt local officials who are enriching themselves by ‘sharing the public pie’ were never going to be held accountable for their actions. I had literally given up hope. Maybe we are all wrong. Maybe all of these backroom deals and public job trading isn’t illegal.
After the pandemic ended, I reached out to see if the FBI would shed any light on the status of the investigations and predictably, they did not. I made a snarky comment about the slow pace of justice in America, saying “I’m starting to believe either there is no case or [an elected Ocean County politician] is an FBI informant or something.”
It didn’t solicit a reaction, but two weeks later, the news broke here on Shore News Network. The Ocean County Board of Commissioners was served with a subpoena for public records relating to the job trading that goes on at the county level.
It was a glimmer of hope, but what comes out of it at this point is unknown. While some officials like Toms River Councilman Kevin Geoghegan says he’s not afraid of the FBI investigation as he doled out a new six figure job (including benefits and perks) to former Toms River Councilwoman Maria Maruca, I know for certain, they should be very worried based on the line of questioning back in 2019.
They are definitely looking closely at what these Ocean County Politicians are doing and who they are doing it with. While the focus at the time seemed to be more on unholy relationships with developers, it seems the probe has expanded to also include the public job trading that goes on each day at the county.
Surprisingly after being interviewed in 2019, I asked the team in Red Bank if anything we discussed was private or confidential, even reminding them who I was and what I do for a living here at Shore News Network and they told me, it was just a friendly chat and I’m free to discuss the meeting and had absolutely no obligation to keep it under wraps.
In the years prior, I learned the FBI interviewed a few more people in the area under the same conditions as my interview. We all met, spoke and shared notes, which gave us all a much clearer picture of what the FBI might be looking for. We won’t divulge that because we want to see them succeed, but it gives us all peace of mind knowing that justice might one day be served.
My hopes still aren’t high, but it was nice to see that after more than two years of radio silence, the Department of Justice is once again taking a look at what is happening here in Ocean County and it’s good to know that the very people attacking Shore News Network are the very people the FBI are looking at, at least, that’s how it currently appears.