On the same day that New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez’s corruption trial ended in a mistrial, the federal jury in the bribery case of Lawrence resident Murray Huberfeld and Norman Seabrook, the former president of the Correction Officers’ Benevolent Association, were released after they could not break a deadlock.
Observers said that the Nov. 16 mistrial casts doubt on the credibility of the prosecution’s primary witness — Jona Rechnitz, 33. According to reports, at least one juror believed Rechnitz to be a total liar. Federal prosecutors said they will retry Seabrook.
On June 8 of last year, Huberfeld, 55, was arrested along with Seabrook, 56, and charged with committing honest services fraud. Huberfeld is alleged to have paid a $60,000 bribe to Seabrook, and the promise of future bribes, in exchange for Seabrook investing $20 million of COBA money in the hedge fund Huberfeld manages.
When the pair was arrested Preet Bharara, now the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said: “For a Ferragamo bag stuffed with $60,000 in cash, Seabrook allegedly sold himself and his duty to safeguard the retirement funds of his fellow corrections officers.”
On a 2013 trip to the Dominican Republic, Seabrook told an individual who was identified as a cooperating witness — Rechnitz— that he worked hard to invest COBA’s money and was not getting rewarded, and it was time that “Norman Seabrook got paid.”
Rechnitz said that Platinum Partners, a firm he was familiar with and conducted business with, was seeking to attract public and institutional investors. He told Huberfeld that Seabrook would likely invest COBA money in the hedge fund if Huberfeld paid Seabrook money.
Allegedly, Huberfeld agreed and created a formula in which Seabrook would receive a kickback of a portion of the profits from COBA’s investment that Huberfeld estimated could range from $100,000 to $150,000 annually.
Seabrook began investing COBA money with Platinum, and even had Platinum pitch COBA’s Annuity Fund board and advisers conduct due diligence, even though the fix was in.
Seabrook demanded the first of his kickback payment from the cooperating witness toward the end of 2014. Huberfeld said the fund had not performed as well as thought and he could only pay Seabrook $60,000. Rechnitz agreed to lay out the money, and Huberfeld agreed to reimburse the witness and used the cost of Rechnitz’s Knicks tickets in that amount.
Huberfeld, who is a generous contributor to Orthodox Jewish causes, and Seabrook were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit honest service fraud and one count of honest services wire fraud.