Killers who worked for Lesniak & Cryan may be free before gubernatorial race

A man who killed Jersey City political operative Michael Galdieri worked on the 2013 campaign for Senator Raymond Lesniak and then-Assemblyman Joseph Cryan, according to documents filed in federal court by the US Attorney’s Office.

Lesniak’s political consultant Sean Caddle paid hit men George Bratsenis and Bomani Africa $15,000 to have his business associate Galdieri killed but before he offered the murder-for-hire opportunity, he employed Bratsenis in the 2013 campaign for Lesniak and Cryan. 

Two seven-page memos signed by U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Farrell and Assistant U.S. Attorney Lee Cortes shared previously undisclosed details about the murder-for-hire.

Among the details mention that Caddle hired Bratsenis to campaign for Lesniak and Cryan a year before he ordered to have Galdieri killed. Gladieri was the son of the late New Jersey state Sen. James Galdieri.

“The murder remained a cold case until two separate armed bank robberies in Connecticut set into motion an investigation that led to the discovery of the murder-for-hire scheme,” wrote the federal prosecutors.

Caddle pleaded guilty to federal charges of murder-for-hire and remains on home confinement with an ankle monitor, pending his sentencing in March. 

Lesniak’s campaign organization and various dark money super PACs controlled by the Elizabeth lawmaker paid millions of dollars to Caddle’s consulting firm.

The U.S. Attorney also said Caddle conspired with Tony Teixeira, a former chief of staff to both New Jersey Senate President Nicholas Scutari and Lesniak.

Teixeira pleaded guilty in federal court in November to tax evasion and wire fraud charges. 

According to the prosecutors, Teixeira took kickbacks from Caddle, who overcharged campaigns, political action committees and nonprofits associated with either Lesniak or Cryan. 

Galdieri, a Jersey City political operative and City Council candidate, was found dead in his Jersey City home on May 22, 2014, with multiple stab wounds to his neck, head and torso, after the apartment was set on fire. 

Bratsenis and Africa confessed and apparently implicated Caddle in the murder-for-hire plot.

Africa, a Paterson gang member with a long record of criminal activity, could be released as soon as 2032 after being sentenced by U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez for the murder-for-hire scheme on Thursday, February 23, 2023.

“Bomani Africa was sentenced today to 20 years in prison, to run concurrently with his sentence in the District of Connecticut,” said Matthew Reilly, public affairs officer for the New Jersey’s United States Attorney, who added that there is no parole in the federal system, but prisoners can reduce their sentence up to 15 percent through compliance with institutional regulations. 

Bratsenis — who was previously convicted of killing a man in Connecticut, committing armed robberies in three states, and plotting his own jailbreak — could be free even sooner under the sentence recommended by prosecutors. 

Bratsenis got a significantly lighter sentence than Africa in another case that was influenced by his cooperation in bringing down Caddle. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey A. Meyer sentenced Bratsenis, 73, to eight years in federal prison for an unrelated 2014 bank robbery in Connecticut. Africa was sentenced to 10 years for that same crime.

Bratsenis had served 91 months in pre-trial detention as of April 2022, when he was sentenced for the 2014 robbery. 

The eight years since his arrest would be deducted from the 85 percent of the sentence that each defendant must serve in prison under federal law. But that could mean Bratsenis may be on the streets before the 2025 gubernatorial race if he is sentenced to 12 or 13 years. 

Caddle pleaded guilty on Jan. 25, 2022, to his role in the murder scheme and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 22, 2023. 

Bratsenis pleaded guilty to his role in the conspiracy on March 24, 2022, and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 29, 2023.

Sentencing for Antonio ‘Tony Tex’ Teixeira, 43, of Elizabeth, is scheduled on March 27, 2023, for his role in another conspiracy involving Caddle.

Teixeira pleaded guilty before to an information charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of tax evasion. 

Teixeira conspired to accept kickbacks from falsely inflated invoices that Caddle’s consulting firms submitted to campaigns, PACs and 501(c)(4)s and he failed to pay taxes on the stolen money he pocketed. 

U.S. District Judge John Michael Vazquez —who is presiding over all these cases—was nominated by President Barack Obama on March 29, 2015, based on the recommendation of US Senator Robert Menendez, who less than a week later was indicted on bribery and corruption charges. Caddle has also worked on Menendez campaigns.

The top donor to the Menendez legal defense fund, giving $30,000 over three years, was Philip R. Sellinger, who hosted a 2012 fund-raiser for the corrupt lawmaker before he was nominated as US Attorney for New Jersey by President Joe Biden.

Sixty people have held the position of U.S. Attorney for the District of New Jersey — but only once has the job been held by a woman. And it never has been held by a person of color.

The Hispanic National Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the Hispanic Bar Association of New Jersey, the Association of Black Women Lawyers of New Jersey, the Garden State Bar Association, the Hispanic National Bar Association and the Asian Pacific American Lawyers Association of New Jersey all expressed their support for Passaic County Prosecutor Camelia Valdes in a letter sent to Menendez and Sen. Cory Booker.

Biden, Menendez and Booker chose the wealthy, white, male who made large political contributions instead.

There has been speculation that Caddle is cooperating with investigations into Menendez, Lesniak, Scutari, Cryan, or Bayonne Mayor Jimmy Davis —and he may have worn a wire over a period of several months—but it seems that revelations about any such probes could still be months away.

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