South Jersey Democratic power broker George Norcross among 6 charged with racketeering

New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin said the scheme goes back at least 12 years and involves the Triad1828 Centre.

George Norcross

George Norcross is seen, Aug. 6, 2019, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

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South Jersey’s influential power broker, George Norcross, his brother Philip Norcross, former Camden Mayor Dana Redd and three others from the Democratic machinery have been charged with racketeering and using political clout to buy waterfront properties in Camden.

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin alleged that Norcross and his co-defendants used  “power and influence over government officials to craft legislation tailored to serve the interests of the Norcross enterprise.” The charges stemmed from a scheme, Platkin said, that dates back at least 12 years.

Norcross, former National Democratic Committee member and former head of the Camden County Democratic Party, sat on the front row dressed in a navy suit and red tie and listened as Platkin announced the charges during a Monday afternoon press conference.

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“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 added.

The 111-page indictment, unsealed Monday, accuses Norcross of leading a criminal enterprise, shoring up millions in tax credits and buying up waterfront properties. Norcross allegedly  intervened when a nonprofit sought to buy the former Camden Aerospace Center, also known as the L3 complex, near the Camden waterfront.

Officials allege that before Norcross became aware of that transaction, the Camden mayor’s office directed the organization’s leaders to meet regularly with Philip Norcross, Norcross’ brother, and then update the “Norcross enterprise” of its progress in the deal “or else face repercussions.”

Instead of choosing its own developer and reaping the expected millions from the transaction, and then sharing the future profits of its ownership, the nonprofit went with the developer Norcross selected and received about $125,000.

“The developer chosen by the Norcross enterprise, on the other hand, was able to obtain the L3 complex at a discounted price only available to the nonprofit,” Platkin said, adding that Cooper Health, where George Norcross is the executive chairman of the board of trustees, gained ownership interest in the L3 complex and subsequently moved in. The indictment alleges that Cooper Health collected more than $27 million in state tax credits from 2016 to 2022 through legislation that Norcross influenced.

Norcross is also accused of forcing a private developer to relinquish property rights to build the tallest building on the Camden waterfront, the Triad1828 Centre, and 11 Cooper, an apartment building.

“When the developer would not initially relinquish his rights on terms preferred by the Norcross enterprise, George Norcross threatened the developer that he wouldn’t substance and in part, ‘eff you up, like you’ve never been effed up before,” Platkin said, ”and he told the victim developer that he would make sure that the developer would never do business in Camden again.”

In addition to George Norcross, Philip Norcross and Redd, who was mayor from 2010–2018, the indictment names Sidney Brown, CEO of trucking and logistics company NFI, William Tambussi, George Norcorss’s long-time personal attorney and counsel to the Camden County Democratic Committee, and John O’Donnell, who served in executive leadership with The Michaels Organization and served on the board of the Cooper’s Ferry Partnership.

All six defendants have been charged with first degree racketeering, along with various counts of financial facilitation and several other charges. Their arraignment is scheduled for July 9 at Superior Court in Mercer County.

The New Jersey Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity led the investigation, with help from the U.S. Attorneys for New Jersey and the Eastern District of Pennsylvania led the investigation. They also received assistance from the FBI field offices in Philadelphia and Newark.

After the press conference, George Norcross called for a trial to start in two weeks and challenged Platkin “to come down here and try this case himself.”

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“He’s a coward, because he has forced people in this building to implement his will,” he said.

Camden city spokesman Vincent Basara said city officials are in the process of reviewing the indictment.

“The City of Camden will cooperate as the judicial process demands as this matter makes its way through the justice system,” Basara said.

Norcross critics welcome indictment

New Jersey Working Families Party State Director Antionette Miles said in a statement the indictment underscores “what the people of Camden have known for decades: George Norcross is the head of a vast criminal enterprise that enriched himself and his friends at the expense of Camden residents.”

“Today’s indictment represents vindication for the Black and brown grassroots advocates who, for years, blew the whistle on Norcross’ corrupt political machine and demanded more accountability,” she said.

“It is a new day for New Jersey politics,” said Democratic congressional candidate Sue Altman, who was physically removed from a 2019 state hearing on the tax breaks cited in the indictment. “While today’s announcement is a major step toward rooting out the rampant corruption that led to the abuse of taxpayer dollars and Camden residents, it is sobering to see the scope and details of the damage done.”

On Monday, the full-time faculty union at Rutgers University renewed their demand for Tambussi to resign or be removed from the Board of Governors. Rutgers AAUP-AFT filed a lawsuit earlier this year to get Tambussi and another Rutgers governor removed because neither of them live in Camden County as required by their appointment.

According to the press release from the Attorney General’s Office, Tambussi lives in Brigantine, Atlantic County.

“Tambussi has to go,” said Todd Wolfson, president of the union in a statement released after Monday’s news conference. “How can the Board of Governors claim to be legitimate in overseeing the university’s mission—including serving the people of Camden and New Jersey—when the person who’s supposed to represent Camden on the board stands accused of enriching himself at the expense of the city and its campus?”

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