A few years ago, Solomon Dwek was the black sheep of the New Jersey Jewish community where his father Yitzhak was a prominent rabbi. After a string of failed real estate ventures and charges of bank fraud, Dwek’s career appeared all but over. But the rabbi’s son found his true calling as an FBI informant, where he is now achieving stardom after helping bring indictments against 44 defendants, including a number of prominent rabbis, four ex-mayors and a former senator, in one of the largest money-laundering and corruption investigations seen in the U.S. in years.
Among the big fish scooped up in the arrest is the new mayor of Hoboken, New Jersey Peter Cammarano, who along with a number of local civic leaders met with Dwek for lunch this past April, where the failed real-estate man implored them to help “expedite” his business ventures.
During their meal, Cammarano promised Dwek he “could trust in him” and shortly thereafter the two met in the parking lot where Dwek handed the soon-to-be mayor an envelope with $5,000 cash and a message for one of Cammarano’s confidants. All the while, Cammarano and his co-conspirators had no idea that the quiet, skullcap-wearing real estate man across the table was the central FBI informant in an investigation that would make the front pages of papers from New York to Tel Aviv.
With his back against the wall, and working as an FBI informant in order to dodge white-collar charges, Dwek managed to “launder” $3 million in funds from Brooklyn, New York and New Jersey municipal officials.
Three years ago, Dwek was caught trying to pass a fraudulent check for $25 million at an FNC branch in New Jersey. He was charged with bank fraud and promptly declared bankruptcy. For Dwek, working for the FBI would be a way to save himself from a lengthy jail sentence. For the FBI, this failed real estate man would prove himself to be a more than successful informant.
In spite of his central role in building one of the largest corruption and money-laundering cases in years, it’s not certain how rosy Dwek’s future will be. After selling nearly 350 of his 400 properties for a sum of around $30 million, Dwek has still not come close to covering his debts, which stand at hundreds of millions of dollars.
A leader of a prominent Jewish organization told Haaretz this week that in the wake of the Bernie Madoff scandal, photos of rabbis in handcuffs splashed across the front pages of publications such as the New York Times serve only to harm the community, but that it was time to accept the fact that “a criminal is a criminal, whether he wears a kippa or not”.
This story "Solomon Dwek: The Rabbi's Son at the Center of the Corruption Probe" was written by Natasha Mozgovaya (Haaretz).