Bloomfield Councilman Elias N. Chalet, arrested in November for allegedly soliciting and accepting a $15,000 bribe from a local business owner, has been indicted by a state grand jury on those and other charges, N.J. Attorney General John J. Hoffman has announced.
In the indictment handed up Jan. 29 in Trenton, Chalet was charged with: official misconduct; bribery in official and political matters; acceptance or receipt of unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior; tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, and hindering apprehension or prosecution.
Chalet, 53. who represents Bloomfield’s First Ward, allegedly solicited the bribe by promising the business owner to use his position on the Council to ensure that the township went ahead with its planned purchase of the man’s commercial property. Neither the owner nor the property in question has been identified publically by Hoffman’s office.
According to authorities, Chalet met with the property owner twice, on Oct. 8 and Oct. 21. At the second meeting at Chalet’s Broad St. real estate office, the two reportedly agreed that the business owner would make an initial cash payment of $10,000, with the balance of $5,000 due after the township bought the property.
Hoffman’s office said that meeting was recorded, as were two subsequent meetings: on Oct. 23, when the councilman allegedly accepted $10,000, and Nov. 16, when the remaining $5,000 in cash was paid. Minutes after that transaction, authorities said, the State Police moved in to arrest Chalet.
According to Hoffman’s office, “Chalet remained locked in his real estate office for approximately 45 minutes, refusing to respond to a detective who repeatedly knocked on the door and a window . . . . Relatives of Chalet approached detectives at the scene and tried to reach Chalet on his cell phone. They reported that Chalet was in the bathroom.”
Authorities said that when State Police detectives conducted a search of the office after Chalet’s arrest, the $5,000 was not found. It is alleged that he destroyed or concealed the money.
The indictment was handed up to Mercer County Superior Court Judge Pedro J. Jimenez Jr., who has now assigned the case to Superior Court in Essex County, where the councilman is to be arraigned. Chalet is currently free on $100,000 bail.
Hoffman cited the N.J. State Police Official Corruption North Unit and the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau for the investigation leading to the charges.
– Karen Zautyk