What we know about FBI raids in Orange, what we want to find out

By Jessica Mazzola | NJ Advance Media for NJ.com
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on September 01, 2016

 

ORANGE — As FBI agents continue to dig into suspected extortion, conspiracy and the corrupt use of government funds at the historic Orange Public Library, details about the investigation have become more clear.

Here's a rundown of what we know so far, and what questions still need to be answered:

WHAT WE KNOW

  • The suspected violations: A search warrant obtained by NJ Advance Media revealed the crimes authorities are intending to prove with the evidence seized. They include theft of federal government funds, theft and accepting corrupt payments concerning an organization receiving federal funds, conspiracy to commit theft and accept corrupt payments, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, extortion under color of official right and conspiracy to do the same, and money laundering.
  • The cast of characters: Officials have requested documents involving 10 people and eight companies, as well as the library's heating and cooling system, Saturday literacy program, and janitorial services, and the city's senior health and wellness program, and purchase of the YWCA building on Main Street. The people mentioned include previous assistant business administrator Willis Edwards III and Tyshammie Cooper, who has served as Mayor Dwayne Warren's Chief of Staff, and is a councilwoman in nearby East Orange.
  • The size of the net being cast: Federal officials requested documents dating to Dec. 1, 2013, and information about certain city employees and vendors going back to July 1, 2012.
  • Another controversy with Edwards: He's already battling the city over his appointment by the mayor as assistant business administrator. The council contested the move, and a judge ruled this year that he owes the city the $268,000 he earned in the job. Edwards is fighting that decision, and says he did nothing improper when serving in the role.

WHAT WE DON'T KNOW

  • The involvement of politicians: Warren is not mentioned in either warrant. And, no Orange Council member is, either. However, Warren did appoint several of the people named.
  • The big picture: Investigators are digging into financial goings on at the library and YWCA, but it's not yet clear if the probe extends beyond that to overall city spending. Public officials have denied rumors that city hall was raided around the same time the library was.
  • The timeline: When, and if, charges will be handed down in connection with this investigation remains to be seen.
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