NJ councilman who flushed $5K bribe down toilet is sent to prison
BLOOMFIELD — A former councilman who admitted taking a $15,000 bribe will spend at least two years in jail after being sentenced on Thursday.
Elias N. Chalet was sentenced to five years in prison, including two years of parole ineligibility after pleading guilty to one count of second-degree bribery in official and political matters.
The charge came after Chalet met with a business owner in October 2015 in front of his own real estate company, Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said Thursday while announcing the sentencing.
During that meeting, Chalet told the business owner that the township would only buy the man's commercial property if he gave Chalet $15,000 in cash. The man reported the bribery attempt to the State Police, which began an investigation into the incident. While the investigation was ongoing, Chalet met with the owner again and discussed the payment in exchange for the purchase.
Unlike the previous meeting, the second encounter was recorded. The recording showed the owner agreed to pay Chalet $10,000 in cash at first, and then $5,000 after the sale was completed. Chalet received the first payment on Oct. 23, 2015, and was arrested while receiving the second payment on Nov. 16, 2015. The vote to confirm the purchase was scheduled for the day after Chalet was arrested.
The arrest was not an easy one as Chalet locked himself in his office for 45 minutes and refused to talk to a detective who knocked at the door and the window. Relatives of Chalet were also unsuccessful in trying to reach him and told police they believed he was in the bathroom. Grewal said police believe Chalet flushed the $5,000 down the toilet.
"Corrupt officials like Chalet undermine public trust and good government," Grewal said. "We will not tolerate elected officials who are willing to sell their influence — and their constituents for an envelope of cash."
During his sentencing Chalet called the taking of the bribe a "freak of nature," and that "it will never be repeated," according to NorthJersey.com. The website reported that as part of the plea deal, prosecutors dropped charges of second-degree acceptance or receipt of unlawful benefit by a public servant for official behavior, fourth-degree tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and fourth-degree hindering apprehension or prosecution.
In addition to his jail sentence and restitution, Chalet also gave up his public position and is barred from seeing elected office again or gaining public employment in New Jersey.