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Grand Jury Indicts 11 in Atlantic City Corruption Case

December 20, 1989

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ A state grand jury indicted four top Atlantic City officials and seven other people on corruption charges Tuesday in the latest chapter in a broad investigation of the gambling resort.

The indictment did not name Mayor James Usry, who was arrested and charged July 27 with the 11 indicted Tuesday and two others in a state police sting, but officials indicated he wasn’t off the hook.

″It’s an active, ongoing investigation,″ said attorney general’s spokesman Christopher Florentz. ″It does not conclude with today’s indictments. The charges at this time have not been dropped.″

Among those indicted were City Council President Walter Collette, Councilman Gene Dorn and Zoning Board Chairman Kaleem Shabazz, who are accused of accepting bribes for obtaining zoning breaks and other benefits for businesses.

Another councilman, Arnold Orsatti Jr., was accused of participating in the conspiracy but was not charged with bribery.

The 11 are to be arraigned next month in Superior Court in Trenton.

Usry was at work Tuesday, but had no comment, said mayoral aide Rosalind Norrell-Nance.

″City government can continue to march,″ said Business Administrator Carl Briscoe, who manages the city’s daily affairs.

The arrests last July were the culmination of an eight-month state investigation.

Four of Atlantic City’s last seven mayors, including Usry, have been arrested.

Usry’s arrest embarrassed Gov. Thomas H. Kean and other state Republican leaders who helped put and keep Usry in office. Usry, who was elected as a reformer, was one of the most prominent black GOP officials in the country.

Tuesday’s indictment also named former city housing authority Director W. Oscar Harris, Robert McCurdy, a former race horse jockey and partner in a local liquor store; Harold Mosee, a Collette aide and former councilman; and Jack Wolf, a consultant for Pan Am World Services.

Collette was charged with accepting a $1,000 bribe in May from Albert Black, who was acting as an undercover agent for state police, said Col. Clinton Pagano, head of the state police.

The investigation began when Black told authorities that Harris had solicited a bribe, officials have said.

Authorities suspect Collette accepted the bribe in exchange for influencing a zoning variance that would enable Black to operate a car wash.

Dorn was accused in the indictment of taking a $7,500 cash bribe from Black to obtain a zoning variance for a gas station.

Dorn and Wolf were also charged with soliciting and accepting $3,500 in bribes from Black for influencing Pam Am World Services to give Black a gift shop concession at Atlantic City International Airport.

″Al Black has altered the facts and corrupted the truth beyond recognition,″ Wolf said. ″The Salem witch hunts prove that in the end, truth will win out.″

The indictment also named Lillian Bryant, a former county freeholder and administrator of the city landlord-tenant affairs board; Sylvetta Pilgrim, former administrative assistant to the board; and Barbara Woodall, a former freeholder candidate.

Dorn was charged with accepting $4,000 in secret contributions from Black to help fund Ms. Woodall’s freeholder campaign, in exchange for helping Black obtain a variance for the car wash.

The indictment alleged that Harris and McCurdy agreed to bribe Shabazz with $25,000, provided by Black, to get his support for the variance. Harris and McCurdy also face attempted extortion charges for allegedly trying to pry more money from Black.

The grand jury accused Mosee of giving Collette and Shabazz $1,000 on behalf of Black, in exchange for their influence with Zoning Board members.

Besides Usry, two others charged in July were not named in the indictments: businessmen Ernest English and Clarence Gillard, who were charged with bribery and other charges.

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