For the better part of a decade, former state Senator Raymond Lesniak’s closest political associates were Elizabeth Democratic Party chairman Tony Texeira and confessed killer Sean Caddle, whose guilty plea stunned observers while news about the aide’s cooperation agreement with federal prosecutors has set many powerful people on edge.
Now, Caddle is sitting at home awaiting sentencing—possibly to life in prison—as he assists federal prosecutors with an unknown variety of criminal investigations, and Texeira is dealing with scrutiny over payments he received from the killer while also collecting taxpayer-funded salaries and remuneration directly from Lesniak’s campaign accounts.
During an interview on Reporters Roundtable, Lesniak claimed Caddle was an opiate addict and he strenuously denied that political corruption played a part in his decision to assassinate a man who was the son of another former state senator.
“He was my campaign manager, that’s it,” said Lesniak. “And because of that, I’m linked to my wife’s death. I’m being questioned about what kind of toothpaste I use in the morning.”
Salena Carroll Lesniak, a social justice activist who chaired the New Jersey Civil Rights Commission, was 43 when she mysteriously died at home in Ocean County in 2019, about a year after she married Lesniak.
Raymond and Salena were a couple for two decades before their wedding in 2018.
“My friends have not been accused of having murdered their wives because Sean Caddle was my campaign manager, they haven’t gone through that,” said Lesniak, who insisted that “there is a lot of connection, not with political corruption, but with drugs.”
“The police are not investigating evidence of foul play,” said a lawsuit filed by attorney Corrine M. Mullen. “Zero evidence has been put forth to suggest Ms. Carroll’s death was a homicide, and certainly none exists implicating (Lesniak).”
Texeira is also the subject of a corruption investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office to Sean Caddle and his consulting firm reveals that state authorities into several super PACs and nonprofits associated with Caddle and other New Jersey Democrats cast a wider net and went on far longer than was previously known.
“Now, a newly-unearthed document obtained by POLITICO shows that before anyone knew of the federal murder-for-hire plea, state investigators were examining payments Caddle allegedly made to a man who has since become the top staffer to New Jersey’s Senate president, the second-highest-ranking elected official in state government after the governor,” said Matt Friedman, in a blockbuster report on Caddle’s payments to Texeira.
“There is no evidence the payments have anything to do with Caddle’s murder-for-hire plea,” said Friedman. “But the document — a legal demand from the state Attorney General’s Office to Caddle and his consulting firm — reveals that a corruption investigation by state authorities into several super PACs and nonprofits associated with Caddle and other New Jersey Democrats cast a wider net and went on far longer than was previously known.”
“While he was waiting (to plead guilty) for murder, he was actually working on campaigns,” said Lesniak, who previously said he engaged in a phone conversation with Caddle the same day that the political operative later pleaded guilty to his role in the murder-for-hire plot that ended the life of Michael Galdieri.
Caddle admitted that he hired two hitmen, one from Connecticut and another from Philadelphia, who stabbed Galdieri to death in his home on May 22, 2014, then set the apartment on fire.
After Caddle confessed, the two hitmen—61-year-old Bomani Africa and 73-year-old George Bratsenis—also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder for hire.
Galdieri worked on the 2014 campaign of Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis, but their operations were funded by a super PAC established by Caddle, who was Lesniak’s principal political operative. Lesniak intended to have Caddle manage dark money political operations for Davis as he pursued re-election this year, but now claims those plans were cut short by exposure of his consultant’s role in the murder.
After the 44-year-old Caddle pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit murder for hire in the stabbing death of Galdeiri, a federal judge allowed him to remain in home detention his Hamburg residence in Sussex County, on $1 million bond although he potentially faces life in prison.
Those tragedies and scandals may have a financial benefit for Lesniak, who said during his appearance on New Jersey Public television that he has a book deal with Rutgers University Press.
One of Lesniak’s dark money super PAC that was set up by Caddle spent $35,000 conducting a door-to-door survey in Elizabeth to find out of the former lawmaker could launch a viable campaign for elected office but sources say pollsters told him he is washed up in his hometown.
“Caddle is a murderer. There’s zero evidence about him being politically corrupt,” said Lesniak, during a televised interview in which he desperately sought to distance his affairs from those that ended a man’s life. “Caddle was a drug addict. There’s absolutely no connection with political corruption.”
Caddle, whose October guilty plea to conspiracy to commit murder was made public in January by federal authorities, managed Lesniak’s 2017 gubernatorial campaign, aided the power broker in a successful takeover of Elizabeth’s school board and executed the former lawmaker’s attempts to secure political patronage by electing friends in other communities, which included besides Bayonne, Orange, Perth Amboy, and Newark.
For a long time, Lesniak credited Caddle with reversing his political fortunes. The former senator was among New Jersey’s longest-serving lawmakers before leaving the Legislature after his unsuccessful bid for governor in 2017, when he finished last among four contenders who qualified to participate in debates.
Lesniak called Caddle’s guilty plea “mind boggling.”
Caddle became heavily involved in Union County politics after betraying the 2012 challenger to Elizabeth Mayor J. Christian Bollwage, when Lesniak hired him away to help in his 2013 re-election effort and to support candidates who ran against Elizabeth Board of Education incumbents using a super PAC called Committee for Economic Growth and Social Justice.
That group, which as a super PAC enjoys far less stringent contribution and spending reporting requirements than candidates or political parties, spent hundreds of thousands in payments that most often went through Caddle’s consulting firm, Arkady LLC, backing local candidates in communities where Lesniak had or wanted business interests.
The PAC, which has been inactive since 2018, faced accusations of illegal coordination with campaigns in Elizabeth — super PACS are banned from coordinating with the campaigns they support — and, like numerous other super PACs run by Caddle, they failed to file numerous reports required by the Federal Election Commission.