BLOOMFIELD — Bloomfield Township Councilman Elias N. Chalet pleaded guilty last week to soliciting and accepting a bribe of $15,000 from a business owner, promising he would use his position on the council to ensure that the township went ahead with its planned purchase of the man’s commercial property.
N.J. Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino said Chalet, 55, councilman for the First Ward, pleaded guilty May 9 before Superior Court Judge Martin G. Cronin in Essex County to a second-degree charge of bribery in official and political matters.
Under the plea agreement, the state will recommend that Chalet be sentenced to five years in state prison, including two years of parole ineligibility under N.J. Anti-Corruption Statute. He must forfeit $15,000 in funds, representing the bribe payments he accepted.
Chalet also must forfeit his public position and will be permanently barred from elected office and public employment in N.J.
He had been arrested on Nov. 16, 2015. The bribery charge was contained in a Jan. 29, 2016, state grand jury indictment.
Chalet initially met with the business owner on Oct. 8, 2015, in front of Chalet’s real estate office on Broad St. in Bloomfield, telling the businessman that the township’s planned purchase of his commercial property would go through only if he gave Chalet $15,000 in cash. The owner promptly reported this to the State Police, and an investigation began.
In a subsequent meeting on Oct. 21, 2015, at Chalet’s office, Chalet again discussed the $15,000 payment. That meeting was recorded. Chalet and the business owner agreed the latter would make an initial payment of $10,000 in cash, with the balance of $5,000 to be paid after the township purchased the property. The bribe payments were made at Chalet’s real estate office, with the councilman accepting the first $10,000 on Oct. 23, 2015. He was arrested on Nov. 16, 2015, at his office after accepting the remaining $5,000 in cash. Those meetings also were recorded.
The vote on the purchase of the business property was scheduled for the day Chalet was arrested. He was in custody before the vote.
When the State Police moved to arrest Chalet minutes after he accepted the final cash payment, he remained locked in his office for approximately 45 minutes, refusing to respond to a detective who repeatedly knocked on the door and window.
Relatives of Chalet approached detectives at the scene and tried to reach him on his cell phone. They reported that he was in the bathroom. It is believed that he flushed the $5,000 in cash down the toilet to prevent detectives from finding it when they searched his office after his arrest.
Chalet was lodged in the Essex County Jail before being released on $100,000 bail.
He is scheduled to be sentenced July 10.