Longtime Lesniak confidante admits guilt in murder-for-hire scheme

Former state Sen. Ray Lesniak’s longtime campaign chief Sean Caddle on Tuesday admitted to hiring two men to kill Michael Galdieri, a longtime associate who had worked for the political consultant’s firm on various election campaigns.

Caddle, 44, of Hamburg, New Jersey, pleaded guilty by videoconference before U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit murder for hire.

Galdieri was murdered on May 22, 2014, about a week after the Bayonne mayoral election when Caddle was paid by Lesniak’s super PAC—the Committee for Economic Growth and Social Justice—to support Jimmy Davis, the Bayonne police captain who forced then-Mayor Mark Smith into a runoff and then feated the incumbent in the June 10 runoff election.

At the time, Galdieri was employed by Caddle’s political consulting firm even though he was sent to prison on drug and weapons charges following a 2005 arrest. Galdieri was the son of former Jersey City state Sen. James Galdieri.

Despite the gravity of the crime he admitted, and the fact that he now faces life in prison, Caddle was allowed to remain free on a $1 million unsecured bond, with home detention, electronic monitoring and travel restrictions.

He managed Lesniak’s failed 2017 gubernatorial campaign, as well as a super PAC called “Run Ray Run” that was established in 2015 to pave the way for the Elizabeth Democrat’s statewide campaign.

Caddle has also been linked to several other super PACs, including Morristown First, Parsippany Forward and A Better Elizabeth.

The three super PACs appear to have been “designed to hide the true source of the money they pumped into the local races, taking campaign contributions from ‘nonprofit’ organizations founded months or even weeks earlier by the same men running the super PAC, according to FEC reports and state charity filing” according to reports in Politico.

Unlike super PACs, nonprofit groups are not required to publicly disclose their donors.

Money channeled through a nonprofit that is essentially controlled by the same people as the super PAC, allows political influencers to prevent the source of the donations from ever being revealed.

That is how Caddle created Partnership Orange, a super PAC that tried to unseat Mayor Dwayne Warren in the impoverished Essex County city after he had drawn Lesniak’s ire.

“He’s my campaign manager, but I want to state this clearly: I don’t pay him enough for him to work exclusively for me,” said Lesniak, who said his campaign is in compliance with state campaign finance rules.

Caddle had also been involved in an unsuccessful 2020 Atlantic City referendum to eliminate the direct election of the mayor and reduce the number of seats on the city council. Lesniak was largely responsible for getting the referendum on the ballot.

“This was a callous and violent crime, and this defendant is as responsible as the two men who wielded the knife,” said U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger. “There is no more serious crime than the taking of another person’s life. The defendant has admitted arranging and paying for a murder by two other people. His admission of guilt means he will now pay for his crime.”

“Today’s guilty plea will bring some sense of closure to the victim’s family who have been left to wonder – for nearly eight years – who murdered their loved one,” Special Agent in Charge George M. Crouch Jr. said. “This should serve as a warning to criminals and potential criminals, alike – while you are going about your life, thinking you ‘got away with it,’ the FBI is piecing together the facts that will serve as your undoing.”

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court, Caddle offered an unidentified conspirator, a Connecticut resident, thousands of dollars to commit a murder in April 2014.

The Connecticut man then recruited another unidentified accomplice from Philadelphia, to join the plot. 

On May 22, 2014, those two traveled from out of state to the victim’s apartment at 1578 Mallory Avenue, in Jersey City, where they stabbed the victim to death and then set his home on fire. 

After Caddle learned the following day that the victim had been murdered, he met the Connecticut conspirator in the parking lot of a diner in Elizabeth, where he paid thousands of dollars in exchange for the murder, and the two killers shared those proceeds. 

Caddle faces a maximum potential penalty of life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine. 

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