“Organ Dealers”

Only five years late, I finally got into The Wire: a US TV “cops and robbers” show.

Series One, which I have just finished, details the investigation of a drugs racket, in which senior politicians and judges are corrupted by the proceeds of sale of cocaine and heroin. The series turns on a central metaphor: the game of chess. At the end, the king dealer is in check, but not mate.

Of course, this is all escapism. In real life, things are much, much weirder.

All this brings me to the breaking news, stateside:

Federal agents swept into New Jersey towns across several counties Thursday morning, arresting about 30 people including mayors and religious leaders, in a federal investigation into alleged public corruption and a high-volume, international money-laundering conspiracy.

The probe also involves the trafficking of body parts, according to a person familiar with the matter. One of the individuals who was arrested Thursday morning is an alleged organ dealer, this person said.

According to a statement released by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Newark, the arrests related to the public-corruption probe included Peter Cammarano III, the newly elected Democratic mayor of Hoboken; Dennis Elwell, mayor of Secaucus, also a Democrat; state Assemblyman Daniel Van Pelt, a Republican; and Democrat Leona Beldini, the deputy mayor of Jersey City.

How gorgeous! But it gets better

The FBI began the large operation three years ago. The public corruption and money-laundering probes are separate but are linked by common players, a source close to the investigation said.

The source described the alleged public corruption as “straight bribery” — cash-filled envelopes exchanged for political influence.

The other investigation centered on a group of rabbis who allegedly laundered tens of millions of dollars through their religious organizations for a fee, according to the source.

According to Newark’s The Star-Ledger, the rabbis taken into custody are from the Syrian Jewish communities of Deal on New Jersey’s northern shore and in Brooklyn, New York.

The arrests resulted from an FBI and Internal Revenue Service probe “that began with an investigation of money transfers by members of the Syrian enclaves in New York and New Jersey,” the newspaper said on its Web site,

Those arrested Thursday “include key religious leaders in the tight-knit, wealthy communities,” the report

Syrian rabbis, body part trafficing, corrupt politicians. What’s not to like?

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