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Former State Senator Pleads Guilty in Racketeering Case

September 30, 1988

CAMDEN, N.J. (AP) _ A former state senator who staged his own death and led authorities on a two-year, worldwide manhunt has pleaded guilty in a plot to defraud a union pension fund of $20 million.

David Friedland, 50, entered the plea to a racketeering count Thursday before Chief U.S. District Judge John F. Gerry.

″He has often portrayed himself as a glamorous figure,″ said Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Chertoff. ″The truth is, there was nothing glamorous about him or the crime. This was one of the grubbiest kinds of crime.″

The former Jersey City legislator was accused of masterminding a plot to defraud the pension fund of North Brunswick Teamsters Local 701.

″We’re very satisfied that justice was done and he admitted to engaging in racketeering,″ said Assistant U.S. Attorney J Imbert.

In return for the guilty plea, Imbert said the government will drop remaining charges, including perjury, mail and wire fraud, against Friedland when he is sentenced Oct. 28.

Friedland faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.

He had faced up to 150 years in jail if he had been convicted of all the original charges.

″I think that was a a very good disposition for the government and for David,″ said John Yacovelle, one of Friedland’s attorneys. ″I think he’s relieved to get it behind him.″

Federal authorities say Friedland staged a fake drowning in the Bahamas on Labor Day 1985, just before he was indicted along with three co-defendants - two union pension fund trustees and the fund’s lawyer. He was arrested last December in the Maldive Islands in the Indian Ocean.

Chertoff called the outcome a ″total victory.″

″The court and the jury has been spared a significant amount of time,″ he said.

The plea agreement came after the testimony Thursday of the former manager of the pension fund and Joseph J. Higgins, Friedland’s partner in Omni Funding of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which managed the investments skimmed from the pension fund.

″In part, as he was confronted with what was unquestionable evidence of his guilt, I think he was motivated by personal embarrassment - if nothing else - to plead and put an end to the proceedings,″ Chertoff said. ″A chapter is over in David Friedland’s life.″

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