Weldon Sentenced to 58 Months in Prison

NEWARK, Aug. 27, 2007 (Updated at 11 pm) -- Former Asbury Park City Manager Terry Weldon was sentenced in federal court today to 58 months in prison for extorting more than $60,000 in bribes from three developers in his roles as Ocean Township mayor and planning board member.

Weldon, 59, who pleaded guilty in October 2002 to three counts of extortion, will begin serving his sentence on Jan. 21, 2008.

Wearing a dark suit and speaking in an unfamiliarly low, almost hoarse voice, Weldon apologized to the court and said he was "very ashamed" of what he had done.

"Wherever I am, I will wear this tattoo," he said.

U.S. District Court Judge William Walls rejected appeals for a more lenient sentence from Weldon's attorney, Robert Galantucci of Hackensack, and U.S. Attorney Mark McCarren.

The first part of the sentencing proceeding was taken up with McCarren's explanation as to the weight he requested be assigned to Weldon's cooperation with authorities. The weighting is part of the sentencing guideline procedures, where points are assigned for various aspects of the crimes, offset by minus points deducted for cooperation, information, etc. It borders on a mathematical exercise.

Apparently, Weldon and his legal aides had negotiated with the U.S. Attorney to have the 2000 state sentencing guidelines applied to his crimes instead of the newer 2001 guidelines. Weldon's crimes amounted to 27 points, under the guidelines, minus 3 points for his cooperation and in turning in the names of people he had bribed, for a total of 24 points. Weldon has helped the government obtain criminal charges against four people, three of whom have been convicted, and made 90 tape recordings while wearing a wire for the FBI.

Walls listened intently to the explanation of the process used and asked several questions to grasp the rationalization of the U.S. attorney. Weldon sat with his chin down listening, his hair streaked by a summer in the sun helping his brother run his oceanside stand in Ocean Grove. His shoulders were slightly bent forward, and his hands were clasped in his lap.

When McCarren finished, Walls said, "I have no interest in challenging you on your explanation of the process." Then Walls, who heard Weldon's initial guilty plea in 2002, denied the motion, saying he is of the mind that "public officials found guilty of violations of the public trust deserve the severest punishment."

"I have little sympathy for those who do so," the judge said. Walls said he'd received many letters over the five years since Weldon pleaded guilty, both pro and con leniency. And some critized the court for delaying justice.

With the count back up to 27, McCarren later requested that the judge, in light of Weldon's litany of health problems, including diabetes, eye problems, high blood pressure and kidney failure, which Galantucci described as "tricky," and the failing health of his wife, apply the low end of the guidelines. (Galantucci declined to name Mrs. Weldon?s diagnosis, saying simply that "she won't be getting any better.") Galantucci said Weldon's wife has a "very difficult" medical condition and that Weldon has to drive her everywhere and take care of her. Walls said Weldon's two grown children can handle those responsibilities.

Walls said the cases Weldon cooperated with were "not significant or (the assistance) not crucial to the government" and "not impressive." He also alluded to the people Weldon had exposed as being lesser players than him. Weldon hadn't given up anyone higher than himself, nor had he done these things at any peril to himself or family. The time it took Weldon to admit his guilt and the delay until April 2003, when he agreed to help the investigators, was too long, he said. McCarren also asked that the judge consider leniency to give an incentive to others to cooperate.

The judge was clearly annoyed by McCarren's tack. "This court is not going to give a slap on the wrist to make your job easier," Wells replied. "Tell those people not to commit crimes and tell the agents to work harder."

Also present in the court were two FBI agents. William Waldie, the key agent on the Operation Bid Rig investigation, which inadvertently caught Weldon on tape, flushed at this and smiled wryly at his partner. The judge continued, "The purpose of this court is to deter people from going into public office with the intension of coming out with riches gained illegally."

"The public interest is paramount; it trumps the interest of the government and it trumps your family obligations," Walls said.

The judge said his sentencing criteria also considered the need to keep this sentence consistent with other sentences handed down for similar offenses.

Walls called Weldon a "kingpin" and the "top of the pyramid of the pecking order" in violations of the public trust, in the Ocean Township corruption scheme, and said that Weldon's delays in cooperation impeded the prosecutions of other investigations. Weldon pled guilty to taking $50,000 in bribes from Moshe Gohar, and later agreed to testify against Gohar. But Walls noted that the government already had Gohar on tape before Weldon was nabbed and didn't need his cooperation to convict Gohar. Actually, Gohar pled guilty eliminating the need for a trial, which McCarren attributed to Gohar's knowledge that Weldon was willing to testify.

In rendering the nearly five-year sentence, Walls said Weldon's deeds were "frankly offensive to me" and "showed a lack of respect for the law and a lack of respect for the oath you took." In return, he said the result "should be a reasonable sentence of just punishment." In addition to the 58 months behind bars, Walls ordered Weldon to cooperate in a full disclosure of all his financial records and payment of a $20,000 fine, payable in $500 monthly installments.

Weldon's brother John, who had been sitting in a white shirt with his arms folded across his middle, put his hands to his head when the judge announced the sentence, then placed them over his eyes. The brother owns a stand in Ocean Grove, where reporters recently spotted Terry Weldon working. John Weldon told Asbury Radio later that Terry was moving empty propane tanks at the time, weighing at most seven pounds. "He's not running a restaurant," said the brother.

Galantucci later told reporters that he would ask that Weldon be taken to a medical facility rather than a normal prison to serve his time. He listed Weldon's doctors as Dr. Mark Newman, Dr. Barry Edison, Dr. Abbud Ziad of the American Heart Center in Ocean Township, Dr. Scott Small of Columbia University, and Dr. Angelo Chinnici of Asbury Park, all of whom supplied letters attesting to Weldon's medical condition.

At first, Walls wanted Weldon to be put behind bars within 24 hours, but Galantucci and McCarren persuaded the judge to delay the reporting date to next January so that Weldon can testify at the upcoming corruption trial of Howard Schoor, a former partner in the engineering firm of Schoor DePalma Inc., of Manalapan, which has multiple locations in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, Arizona and Nevada. Walls said Schoor DePalma's involvement in bribing officials was significant due to the firm's prominence in the state.

In the interim the defense attorney said he planned to review the proceedings today for a possible appeal of the sentence, based on "abuse of discretion." The judge, Galantucci told reporters, seemed to take into account a lot of other officials' wrong doings, not just Weldon's.

In speaking for Weldon, Galantucci credited his client with helping to turn things around in Asbury Park, getting redevelopment started, helping with the school system, and in Ocean Township, creating parks and other benefits to the community.

However, one courtroom observer (there were only four non-press present) objected to Weldon's role in Asbury Park. Developer Ted Murnick, owner of the Monroe Towers apartment building and one of those who unsuccessfully sought the right to redevelop Asbury Park's waterfront, told Asbury Radio following the sentencing, "In my opinion, corrupt public officials such as Terry Weldon are a blight on our democratic way of life. It's hard to convince me that the few incidents Mr. Weldon pleaded guilty to were the only acts he committed -- they were the only acts he got caught at.

"As far as Mr. Weldon being instrumental in the redevelopment of Asbury Park, I believe the record will show that I was the one ready to get the redevelopment underway and Mr. Weldon was the one who stood in my way every time I made a proposal."

Send Weldon to Prison AND Stop the Conflicts

Positive news is always welcome, but when the subject involves millions in investment dollars objectivity is vital.

Five years ago, when Asbury Park's former City Manager, Terry Weldon, was penning the final details of the oceanfront community's redevelopment plan, as FBI agents carted boxes from his home and offices, observers feared another scam on the horizon. But a positive chorus urged them to think positively.

Even after Weldon's own admission of extorting at least three bribes in his dual capacity as Ocean Township's mayor, the same chorus continued to sing Weldon's praises, rationalizing that Weldon hadn't been found to have committed any crimes in Asbury Park. Think about that one. We don't care if you're a criminal as long as you haven't cheated us? Regardless, the same chorus ensured that Weldon, post guilty plea, received unused sick leave and vacation time from the city, for his term as fire chief, which he collected at his city manager salary rate. Ironically, the compensation of $67,000 slightly surmounted the sum of his admitted extortions at the time.

Now Weldon is scheduled again for sentencing. This time the date is set for Monday, August 27th. But don't wave the justice flags yet. Weldon's supporters say he has cooperated by ratting out two people he extorted bribes from - and who knows maybe more that we don't know about. Perhaps, they say, he deserves to have his sentence reduced or even commuted, since he's obviously been secretly cooperating all this time.

Obviously, people are confused as to where their allegiances lie; and the conflicts are about to get even deeper and murkier. Today (APP- Developer Touts City's Future) we have reports of "sold" units in a building that is currently no more than pilings and some concrete foundations. What is the definition of sold? Certainly it is welcome news to have sold anything on the oceanfront after the long struggle to rip this city from the clutches of a bankruptcy court in Conn. But accuracy - not puffery -- is what will win the day and pull genuine investors back to the Jewel of the Jersey Shore.

Our credibility is on the line as never before. 'Sold' in legal terms requires a deed to prove. Until a deed has been filed, how would you force someone to buy a unit they've contracted to buy on a pre-construction basis? Are mortgage companies granting mortgage money on condos prior to construction? That concept seems strange even after the sub-prime market debacle. Is Esperanza developer Bruce Geibel requiring cash up front? Did John Oates peel off $400,000 in exchange for a commitment to build? Can a buyer be forced to buy a property they've signed a contract to buy post construction? Forfeit a deposit, maybe, but force them to buy?

We have the North Beach development - The Seville, The Barcelona, and The Monterey - nearly a year ago the developers said they'd 'sold' 106 of their 157 units. To date fewer than 40 deeds have been filed at City Hall for this address. Does this help or hurt Asbury's credibility? I'm a homeowner here. I'd benefit along with everybody else if the waterfront condos sell. But are buyers lured by facts and figures or loose terms, loyalty and positive thinking? There could be a backlash.

Now we have a city official, attorney Dan DiBennedetto, who in addition to his role as chair of the city's planning board, where the city is represented by the only real estate salesman on the council, has been openly supporting the waterfront developers in parades and public events here as well as in NYC, accepting the post of president of the renamed Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce (formerly the Greater Asbury Park Chamber of Commerce). The public has the right to ask if these posts present the "appearance of a conflict of interest". I think Mr. DiBennedetto is a very nice man, hard working, affable, charming and from all appearances honest. But government is held to a stricter definition and for good reason. If DiBennedetto's heart is in getting Geibel's building constructed as fast as possible, which will certainly benefit the Chamber, can he trust his judgment on the planning board where the tough decisions will arise? Will he be tempted to err on the side of expedience or the public welfare?

Investors and potential investors need this City to uphold consistently high standards in an open and transparent process. Monday's sentencing may herald a new day for Asbury Park as well as Terry Weldon. Let it be the day the City of Asbury Park adopted and began enforcing the strictest rules of conduct for its officials and buried forever its moniker: "Sin City."

Maureen Nevin

Note: 7/11/04 - Former Mayor Butch Saunders was sentenced last week to prison time for conspiring to bribe another city official. Back on Oct. 10th, 2002 - nearly 2 years ago -Terry Weldon, former A.P. city manager and mayor of Ocean Twp., pled guilty to three counts of extorting money from developers and has yet to be sentenced. Where's the justice here?   

The Weldon Timeline


As the sentencing date for former Asbury Park City Manager, former Ocean Twp Mayor and confessed extortionist Terrance Weldon draws near, we might take a moment to reflect on the events that led to this day. It is important to view the bare facts, unadorned with the gushing tributes still being paid to this man who deliberately misled a city that put its trust in his integrity.


2000 – Nov 18: the former Asbury Park council appoints Terrance Weldon

 Interim City Manager. Future Councilmember Kate Mellina’s husband, Dave Christopher, displays his contempt for political boss Phil Konvitz by acknowledging his hand in the hiring of Weldon as city manager, by “congratulating” Konvitz. (As depicted in photo on Asbury Park.net)

2000 – Dec: Weldon retires from position of Fire Chief of Asbury Park

2001  -Late Spring/ early Summer Weldon extorts a $50,000 bribe from

Moshe Gohar, a Long Branch developer, for 75 units to be built at Apple Farm in Ocean Twp.; prosecutors accuse Konvitz of arranging the bribe.

2001– July 1:  New Council takes office and grants 1 year contract to

 Weldon, at a salary of $95,191

Residents chastise the council for this pay scale in light of severe budget problems. James G. Aaron, Ansell Zaro Grimm & Aaron, city attorney at the time and the city's present redevelopment lawyer, says that Weldon has excellent credentials. "He would bring an air of stability to the city." (Source: AsburyPark.net.)

2002- Jan 23: About $50,000 in bribe money from Gohar (see 2001 Spring)

is seized from a jacket pocket in Weldon’s attic - His Ocean & Asbury offices are also searched.

"This is all about things going on -- perceived things that have gone on in Asbury Park over the years," Weldon tells the Asbury Park Press, in response to the FBI search.

"As redevelopment counsel I have reviewed the subpoena for documents," Aaron said this morning. "It does not make a charge against anyone, it does not make allegations against anyone, and it certainly does not affect this mayor and council from moving forward with tonight's presentation. The timing of this is unfortunate and can lead to speculation. This document [the search warrant] and the documents it seeks do not have anything to do with this mayor and this council."  (Source: AsburyPark.net) Subsequently, Aaron becomes a contributor to Weldon’s legal defense fund.

2002- Jan:  Weldon Assures City Council members he’s done nothing wrong,

even though he must’ve noticed the $50,000 missing and will later confess to having taken bribes amounting to $64,000. Attorney Peter S. Falvo represents principals in two of the three Ocean Twp development projects that Weldon pleads guilty to extorting: Rolling Meadows and Mark Place. The attorney for Apple Farm is (at that time) George McGill of Belmar.

2002 – June 20: Council hires Peter S. Falvo, Jr. as city attorney, who joined

 James Aaron’s firm - Ansell Zaro Grimm & Aaron – in May 2001

2002- July:  Council hires Weldon with new 3-year contract, calling for

 incremental raises from $95,191 to $98,999, and $102,958 in 2003

2002 – Oct 7: Weldon signs off on redevelopment plan

2002 – Oct 7: Weldon immediately resigns citing the commission of

            “reprehensible acts” on his part.

2002- Oct 10: Weldon admits to three counts of extortion spanning 1998

 thru 2001; and, Weldon refuses to cooperate with FBI investigators

2002- Oct 23: City passes Redevelopment resolution. Council members

James Bruno and Kate Mellina credit Weldon with fast tracking and shepherding the plan to completion, saying the city would not have the redevelopment plan if not for Weldon’s leadership.

2002 -Nov 7: On the advice of counsel, Council members James Bruno, John

Loffredo and Kate Mellina vote to give Weldon compensation for unused sick, vacation and comp days dating back to his job with the fire company. Computed at his city manager’s rate, the amount approved is $67,609. Asbury Park city attorney Peter S. Falvo, with James Aaron’s firm - Ansell Zaro Grimm & Aaron – interprets labor lawyer’s (Brian W. Kronick of Genova, Burns & Venoia) opinion, saying it is “the legal obligation of the municipality” to pay Weldon. However, Kronick’s letter actually states that discretion to pay Weldon lies with the Council (Source: AsburyPark.net). Mellina asks Kronick for a second letter supporting Falvo’s interpretation. Labor lawyer refuses to write it. (Weldon also receives about $54,000 a year through the state Police and Firemen’s Retirement System.)

2002 -Nov 14: Mellina reveals during radio interview that she has written a

letter to federal judge hearing Weldon’s case requesting his mercy.

2002 –Nov 19: Council persons Kate Mellina and James Bruno responding to an audience question, state during council meeting that they both wrote letters of clemency for Weldon. When asked who requested that they write the letters, city attorney Peter S. Falvo discourages councilpersons from answering the question.

2003 -  Mellina, who vows to remain Weldon’s friend, and her husband

continue their public friendship with the Weldons, while Weldon awaits sentencing.

2003 – Prosecutors drop charges against Konvitz due to dementia. Konvitz is seen shortly after talking business over lunch.   

2003 – July 22:  Weldon is scheduled a third time to be sentenced for the extortion charges he pled guilty to in October 2002. On two prior occasions he has been too ill to appear in court, although he was seen socializing and dining out shortly after both postponements.


Compiled by Maureen Nevin – Restore Radio, Asbury Park, based on news reports, public records and interviews.