State charges Norcross (and 5 others) with 1st-degree racketeering in 13-count indictment

In stunning scene, Attorney General Platkin details alleged crimes against longtime South Jersey powerbroker with Norcross seated just a few feet away

In a scene that seemingly could only play out in New Jersey, Attorney General Matt Platkin announced a stunning 13-count indictment against longtime South Jersey powerbroker George Norcross on Monday afternoon — and he did it with Norcross himself sitting in the front row of the event, just a few feet away.

The 111-page indictment charges Norcross and five co-defendants with committing the crime of first-degree racketeering conspiracy, among other offenses, to further the purposes of the Norcross enterprise, Platkin said.

Norcross was charged along with one of his brothers (Philip Norcross), the former Camden mayor and longtime Camden-area official (Dana Redd), his personal attorney (William Tambussi), a local CEO (Sidney Brown of NFI) and a leader with the Michaels Organization (John O’Donnell).

George Norcross. (File photos/Courtesy photos)

Platkin alleged that Norcross and others obtained property and property rights on the Camden Waterfront while collecting millions of dollars in government-issued tax credits. Their efforts, Platkin said, have slowed the city’s efforts to revitalize itself.

“With sweeping views of Philadelphia, the abandoned industrial sites along the Camden Waterfront had the potential to serve as the city’s salvation,” Platkin said. “But, as the state alleges, the Norcross enterprise manipulated government programs and processes designed to attract development and investment to instead suit their own financial desires.

“Instead of contributing to the successes of the city of Camden, through a series of criminal acts, alleged in the state’s case, the Norcross enterprise took the Camden waterfront all for themselves.

Philip Norcross.

“As George Norcross himself allegedly said, ‘quote, this is for our friends, end quote.’”

Platkin repeatedly referred to the indicted as the Norcross enterprise throughout the announcement.

He said the indictment alleges that the Norcross enterprise, from at least as early as 2012 through the present, used its power and influence over government officials to craft legislation tailored to serve the interests of the Norcross enterprise.

“With the cooperation of former Mayor of Camden Dana Redd, they co-opted the Camden city government to aid the Norcross enterprise in obtaining property and property rights along the Camden waterfront through coercion, extortion and other criminal acts,” Platkin said.

Dana Redd.

Norcross and the five others face up to years in state prison and fines of up to $200,000 if convicted of the charges of first-degree racketeering.

Platkin said the indictment centers around the ability of the group to use a tax-credit program from the state to enrich themselves through hundreds of millions of dollars in credits.

Platkin said the Norcross enterprise worked in a variety of ways, including:

  • William Tambussi.

    “Preserving and enhancing the power, reputation and profits of the Norcross enterprise;

  • “Protecting and promoting the reputation and political power of the leader of the enterprise, George Norcross, by among other means controlling access to the local political party apparatus, directing appointments to government positions and using influence and control over government agencies to cause opponents to lose government contracts;
  • “Enriching and rewarding the Norcross enterprise members and allies through political endorsements, appointments to public positions, influencing government contracts and placement and lucrative private sector jobs;
  • Sidney Brown.

    “Influencing the New Jersey Legislature to pass legislation to increase tax awards for projects in Camden and advance the interests of the Norcross enterprise;

  • “Concealing, misrepresenting and hiding the illegal operation of the Norcross enterprise and acts done in furtherance of the enterprise from the public, from law enforcement and from the media;
  • “Promoting compliance with the demands of the Norcross enterprise by retaliating against those opposed to the enterprise, and using the Norcross enterprise’s reputation for controlling government entities to intimidate and threaten those who hold interests and rights that the Norcross enterprise seeks to acquire or extinguish.”

Platkin said the totality of the effort was extensive.

John O’Donnell.

“In short, this indictment alleges that a group of unelected private businessmen use their power and influence to get government at the state and local levels to aid their criminal enterprise and further its interest,” he said. “Through their alleged acts, the Norcross enterprise was able to obtain the rights to build multiple buildings and obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in government-issued tax credits, among other benefits.

“They allegedly did this with the complicity and acquiescence of various state and local elected and appointed officials, who turned a blind eye to their duties and obligations to the people of New Jersey to instead serve the interests of a powerful few.

“The state alleges that George Norcross has been running a criminal enterprise in the state for at least the last 12 years. This alleged conduct of the Norcross enterprise has caused great harm to individuals, businesses, nonprofits, the people of the state of New Jersey and, especially, especially to the city of Camden and its residents.

“That stops today.”

Platkin’s nearly 20-minute statement was shocking in so many ways, as it potentially could jail someone whose power and influence often exceeded even that of the governor over more than a generation of leadership — certainly far longer than the 12 years described in the indictment.

That it was spelled out in great detail, with Norcross sitting just feet from him, was like a scene out of a movie.

As the announcement came to a close, Platkin was asked if wanted to comment on Norcross being in the room.

He declined to answer.