The now-former law partner of the Fort Lee mayor arranged for a pair of drug smugglers to launder their money at a bank where the mayor sits on the board of directors, authorities said Monday.
The mayor, attorney Mark Sokolich, has not been implicated in any wrongdoing.
His friend and longtime law partner, Marcanton "Marc" Macri, was charged this past weekend with money laundering and facilitation for allegedly setting up large-scale pot dealers with an assistant manager at a local bank, who authorities said converted the $10 and $20 bills into crisp hundreds.
The scheme was carried out through a teller at a Bank of New Jersey branch in Fort Lee, said Steve Cucciniello, Chief of Detectives for the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office.
Matthew Martin and Danny Saleh, both of Edgewater, imported as much as 1,000 pounds of marijuana into New Jersey since January, authorities said.
Sokolich is one of several prominent locals on the bank's board, including developers and real estate brokers. Sokolich is a real estate attorney.
“I’m one of 18 board members,” Sokolich said Monday. “I sit on the board of directors and make policy decisions. The day-to-day banking is handled and managed by the other guys, and that’s it. I work very hard to make sure that they contribute to the community as much as possible, and they do.”
"There’s absolutely no evidence out there that ties me to Macri and these allegations," he said.
Also on the bank's board is Carmelo Luppino, Jr., a developer who is on the Fort Lee Board of Education, and Gerald A. Calabrese, Jr., president of his family's real estate business and son of the longtime Cliffside Park mayor.
Sokolich owns slightly over 1 percent of the bank, or 53,500 shares, one of the smallest percentages of any of the directors, according to the bank's 2011 proxy statement filed with the SEC.
Stephen Crevani, owner of Aniero Concrete in Hackensack, is the largest shareholder with 158,000 shares, or just over 3 percent.
The publicly traded firm's shares (NYSE:BKJ) closed at $9.63 per share on Monday.
Sokolich said Sunday that he was "surprised, stunned and beside myself" at the money laundering charges filed against his longtime friend and law partner.
He said that he has cut professional ties with Macri, who had been talked about as a future head of the Fort Lee Democratic Party and who was instrumental in bringing a Christmas tree lighting to Fort Lee .
"Unfortunately my professional relationship has been terminated as of April 15," Sokolich told Patch Sunday. "However I remain supportive of a friend and former business colleague, as I remain supportive for all friends."
Martin, 43, and Saleh, 34, made bulk purchases of marijuana in Northern California during bi-monthly trips and would ship it home via the post office, Bergen County Prosecutor John Molinelli said.
Martin and Saleh would break the marijuana up and distribute it through associates, making enough money to afford a Rolls Royce, a Lamborghini, an Audi R8 and a Range Rover, which were seized, authorities said.
Anthony Alberga, 22, the assistant bank manager accused in the scheme, was fired Monday, Bank Chairman and CEO Albert F. Buzzetti told NorthJersey.com.
Macri remains free on bail.