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Grand Jury Indicts 11 in Atlantic City Corruption Case

December 20, 1989 GMT

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) _ Four top Atlantic City officials are among 11 people under indictment in a broad corruption probe in the gambling resort, but the grand jury was silent on the mayor, who had been arrested in the case.

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

Atlantic City Mayor James Usry had no comment, said Rosalind Norrell-Nance, an aide.

″City government can continue to march,″ said business administrator Carl Briscoe, who runs the resort’s everyday affairs.

Among those indicted Tuesday were City Council President Walter Collette, Councilman Gene Dorn and Zoning Board Chairman Kaleem Shabazz, who are all accused of accepting bribes to use their positions to obtain zoning breaks and other benefits for private businesses.

Another councilman, Arnold Orsatti Jr., was charged with participating in the conspiracy.

A state police sting hit the top echelon of Atlantic City’s government with arrests and corruption charges on July 27. Besides the 11 indicted, Usry and two others were arrested in the sweep that culminated an eight-month investigation.

Usry, 67, was led away from his home by police in a roundup of suspects. Authorities said $6,000 in cash was found in his home, but the mayor’s attorney said the money was a contribution from a businessman that Usry was to relay to a children’s charity.

The arrest was an embarrassment to state Republicans, including Gov. Thomas H. Kean, who had helped put Usry in office and make him one of the most prominent black Republican officials in the nation.

Including Usry - who was elected as a reformer - four of Atlantic City’s last seven mayors have been arrested.

The indictment also named W. Oscar Harris, former director of the city’s housing authority; Robert McCurdy, a former jockey and partner in a liquor store; Harold Mosee, an aide to Collette and a former councilman; and Jack Wolf, a consultant for Pan Am World Services.

State Police Superintendent Col. Clinton Pagano said Collette is charged with accepting a $1,000 bribe in May by Albert Black, who was cooperating as an undercover agent for the state police.

Authorities said the investigation began when Black approached them with reports that Harris had solicited a bribe from him.

Black became a key source for investigators, but his account of the complex of alleged bribes and influence was questioned by one suspect Tuesday.

″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.″

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 to give Black a gift shop concession at Atlantic City International Airport.

All 11 defendants will be arraigned in January in Superior Court in Trenton.