The legal demand, dated Sept. 28, 2021, demands Caddle “identify the purpose” of a dozen payments totaling $46,000 it says his firm, Arkady, made to Democratic operative Antonio Teixeira and his late wife, Marlenes, between May 2015 and September 2017.
Teixeira, who’s often referred to in political circles as “Tony Tex,” was chief of staff to state Sen. Raymond Lesniak (D-Union) at the time of the alleged payments. During the tail end of the time period, he also served as chair of the Democratic Party in Elizabeth — New Jersey’s fourth largest city — and still is. In 2018, Teixeira became chief of staff to state Sen. Nicholas Scutari (D-Union), now the president of the state Senate.
“It’s the first time I’m hearing about those subpoenas or any of that stuff. So I’m really not going to make a comment,” Teixeira said when reached by phone on Thursday.
The state Attorney General’s Office declined to comment. Caddle’s attorney, Ed Jacobs, did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.
There is no reason to believe Scutari is or was a target of the Attorney General’s investigation. State investigators could not have known he would become Senate president at the time they issued the subpoena, as the position only opened up after the shocking November election loss of former Senate President Steve Sweeney.
Scutari did not respond to a phone call and text message seeking comment.
Lesniak dismissed the inquiry into his former chief of staff’s payments as well as questions about the Committee for Economic Growth and Social Justice, a super PAC he had close ties to when it spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in New Jersey in 2013 and 2014.
“It’s no big deal. So what? … It’s not a lot of money,” Lesniak said in a phone interview Thursday.
“They found nothing there. I’ve never been questioned. I’ve never been subpoenaed. What are they looking for?” Lesniak said. “People drop dimes on me all the time but they’ve never found anything because I’ve never done anything wrong. And you can quote me on that.”
POLITICO detailed most of the super PACs and nonprofits mentioned in the subpoena in articles published in 2017 and 2018.
Caddle pleaded guilty in January to hiring two men with long rap sheets, George Bratsenis and Bomani Africa, for the 2014 murder of Michael Galdieri, a former associate and son of a late state senator. Africa pleaded guilty in January but Bratsenis, who remains jailed on a Connecticut bank robbery charge, has not yet entered a plea.
Africa admitted to his role in the stabbing death of Galdieri, whose Jersey City apartment was set on fire.
The fact prosecutors have agreed to allow Caddle to remain on home confinement while awaiting sentencing has touched off intense speculation about the extent of his cooperation with federal authorities and left many New Jersey political insiders assuming a major corruption scandal is brewing.
Four of the organizations mentioned in the September legal demand to Caddle were super PACs he was involved in: A Better Elizabeth, Perth Amboy and You, Partnership Orange and the Committee for Economic Growth and Social Justice. All four were involved in local elections in several New Jersey towns.
The document also seeks information on three nonprofits Caddle and another man, Gianni Donates, formed that channeled money into some of those super PACs, effectively hiding the true source of the donations: Better New Jersey, National Progressive Organization and Communities United National. Super PACs are required to disclose their donors, but non-profit 501(c)(4) organizations are not.
Donates did not respond to a text and phone call seeking comment.
POLITICO reported in 2019 that state investigators sent subpoenas to Elizabeth’s school board and the Perth Amboy city government seeking information on proposals, bid awards and contract payments and other information for about a dozen companies and organizations, mostly public contractors.
The Elizabeth Board of Education hired Michael Critchley, one of New Jersey’s most prominent defense attorneys, to respond to the subpoena and paid his firm more than $100,000. Critchley said in February that he wrapped up work on the subpoena in the spring of 2020, and Union County political insiders believed the investigation ended then. The legal demand shows state authorities were still probing the groups a year-and-a-half later.
The Committee for Economic Growth and Social Justice is closely tied to Lesniak, an early adopter of the use of super PACs for local races, a practice that has since become more common across the country. The group, which was mainly active in 2013 and 2014, helped Lesniak’s allies win seats on the Elizabeth Board of Education — a prime source of political patronage that had been run by a rival political machine with whom Lesniak often feuded. Federal campaign finance records show one super PAC paid Caddle’s firm more than $600,000, mostly for canvassing.
It’s not clear whether the state investigation is ongoing. It’s possible Caddle’s federal case stalled it.
The legal demand was issued just one month before Caddle signed his murder-for-hire plea deal with federal prosecutors. NJ Advance Media reported that at Caddle’s January plea hearing, which had not been advertised to the press, his attorney said Caddle was a cooperating witness in an undisclosed undercover federal investigation.