Sean Caddle, a political operative who served as a consultant to U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, former Assemblyman Lou Manzo, and former state Senator Raymond Lesniak, was sentenced on Thursday to 24 years in prison for hiring two hitmen to kill his former associate, Michael Galdieri.
Prosecutors asked for a sentence of 15 years in prison, and Caddle’s lawyers argued for a shorter sentence, citing his cooperation with the government in the prosecution of other cases, but U.S. District Court Judge John Michael Vazquez imposed the longer sentence.
Caddle was immediately taken into custody.
According to a sentencing memo filed by prosecutors, Caddle hired two hit men to kill Galdieri in 2019.
Galdieri, the son of Hudson County politician James Anthony Galdieri, was stabbed to death on May 22, 2014, in his apartment, which was set on fire in order to cover up evidence of stab wounds.
Caddle pleaded guilty to the charge in January 2022. As part of his plea agreement, he agreed to cooperate with the government in the prosecution of other cases.
In the sentencing memo, prosecutors argue that Caddle’s cooperation was significant but the only information that he provided led to the prosecution of Tony Teixeira, a former Democratic operative who pleaded guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion.
A longtime Union County Democratic operative, Teixeira was most recently chief of staff to Senate President Nick Scutari, the same job in which he served Lesniak for several years.
In the sentencing memo, prosecutors provided previously undisclosed new details about Caddle’s motive for hiring the hit men to kill Galdieri.
According to the memo, Galdieri was extorting Caddle with threats to go public with information about criminal activities if Caddle did not continue to funnel money to him.
Fearing that Galdieri’s revelations would ruin him as a political consultant, Caddle made the “fateful decision” to have Galdieri killed.
According to the memo, Galdieri bragged to hitman George Bratsenis that he was the “envelope guy” or “bag man,” responsible for delivering money to various individuals.
It is unclear who Galdieri was delivering money to or for what purpose. However, the memo’s mention of Galdieri’s “envelope guy” role suggests that he may have been involved in illegal activity.
The sentencing hearing for Sean Caddle is scheduled to take place on Thursday. Caddle faces a potential sentence of 15 years in prison. However, his lawyers are arguing for a shorter sentence, citing his cooperation with the government.
The sentencing memo provided new details about Caddle’s motive for hiring the hit men to kill Galdieri but if the defendant exposed criminality and corruption involving New Jersey politicians other than Teixeira it is not clear that his cooperation was employed by prosecutors.
Between 2003 and 2005, Caddle collected over $80,000 while performing political consulting for Menendez.
Lesniak directed millions of dollars into groups established by Caddle with the intent of disguising political contributions but a years-long state probe and his cooperation with federal authorities turned up nothing.
Vazquez sounded skeptical of Caddle’s acceptance of any responsibility, saying it sounded as if he was trying to “save his own skin” by cooperating with prosecutors in a separate tax and wire fraud case that led to a guilty plea from a former top aide to the state Senate president.
“This is one of the most unusual and certainly one of the most heinous crimes I’ve encountered as a judge,” Vazquez said.
Caddle, who had been out of prison on house arrest, was led away by U.S. Marshals after the hearing. He appeared before the judge in an untucked button-down shirt and khakis, and didn’t comment other than to tell the judge he wasn’t going to speak on his own behalf before sentencing.
Two of Galdieri’s relatives, who declined to give their names, stood shoulder to shoulder in the courtroom as one read a statement from the family.
“How could I effectively articulate the impact that it has on you, that your brother was murdered and his apartment set on fire?” the woman said.
She described a feeling of “complete stupidity and regret” over crying in Caddle’s arms after her brother’s death. She said she thought at the time that he was a friend of their family.
The case captured attention when prosecutors announced Caddle’s guilty plea in early 2022, apparently solving the mysterious death of Galdieri, the son of a former state senator, eight years earlier. Former Democratic state Sen. Raymond Lesniak, for whom Caddle worked for years, called it the “most bizarre thing I’ve ever experienced in my life.”
And this week, prosecutors finally revealed a motive for the hit: Caddle told prosecutors he wanted him dead because Galdieri was threatening to extort money from him in exchange for not exposing wrongdoing Galdieri claimed Caddle committed through his political consulting business. Just what the wrongdoing might have been or how much money Galdieri allegedly sought has not been made public.
Prosecutors got a lucky break when one of two ex-convicts who pleaded guilty to a 2014 Connecticut bank robbery told authorities — unprompted — that he had information about a murder that same year. George Bratsenis was later sentenced to 16 years and Bomani Africa to 20 years after they ultimately pleaded guilty to helping Caddle with the murder.
Bratsenis and Africa had met while in a New Jersey prison where Caddle’s now-deceased brother, James Caddle, also was serving time.
Bratsenis told authorities that he went to work for Caddle, who invited him to his Jersey City home for dinner in March or April of 2014. Caddle told him he was aware of his “extensive” criminal history and asked if he could find someone to commit murder for $15,000, Bratsenis said.
Caddle said he wanted Galdieri dead within a month and gave Bratsenis up to $4,000 upfront, according to prosecutors.
On May 22, 2014, the Bratsenis and Africa drove together to the apartment of Galdieri, who had been expecting Bratsensis because they had discussed robbing drug dealers together, authorities said.
Not long after letting the men in, Galdieri was fatally stabbed by both men and they doused his home in gasoline and set it on fire, according to authorities.
A day later, Bratsenis and Caddle met in the parking lot of a diner where Caddle paid him the remaining money. He didn’t bring enough initially, however, and had to withdraw more from the bank account of his political consulting business, prosecutors said.
Interviewed about Galdieri’s death that same day, Caddle told prosecutors about Galdieri’s drug use but did not disclose his role in the killing, they said.
A prosecutor’s memo describes Caddle as “cold-hearted” and says he even attended the repast after Galdieri’s funeral.
Prosecutors sought a 15-year sentence even though life in prison is the minimum for conspiracy to commit a murder-for-hire that results in a death.
Parts of the sentencing memo were redacted, but prosecutors noted that Caddle’s history didn’t include other violent crimes and said he cooperated with investigators.