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June 17, 2024

George Norcross, five others indicted on racketeering charges related to Camden waterfront development

New Jersey AG Matthew Platkin alleges the businessman and Democratic power broker exploited programs aimed at revitalizing the city.

Investigations Indictments
Norcross indictment Amy Newman/ via Imagn Content Services, LLC

George Norcross is accused of leading a criminal enterprise that included his brother Philip and Dana Redd, the former mayor of Camden. Norcross is pictured above testifying before the New Jersey Senate.

George Norcross III, the insurance executive known for his political influence in South Jersey, was indicted Monday on charges of racketeering.

The New Jersey Attorney General's Office alleges Norcross led a criminal enterprise that acquired lucrative properties along the Camden waterfront, collected millions in state tax credits, manipulated government officials and bullied business rivals dating back to 2012. Five other defendants are named in the 111-page indictment, including Norcross's brother Philip Norcross, an attorney, and Dana Redd, the former mayor of Camden. 

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Norcross is the father of PhillyVoice founder and chairwoman Lexie Norcross. Philip Norcross is the uncle of Lexie Norcross.

The indictment lays out a complicated conspiracy to control and profit from projects along the Camden waterfront. Norcross and the other defendants not only acquired properties and benefited from the associated state tax credits, prosecutors said, but threatened people who stood in their way. Norcross allegedly told one developer, who held the property rights needed to build the Triad1828 Centre, that he would "f*** you up like you've never been f***ed up before," according to the indictment, and the defendants allegedly also conspired to sully the developer's reputation and directed Redd, who was Camden's mayor between 2010 and 2018, to stop communicating with him.

The developer eventually agreed to sell his rights, clearing the way for Norcross to build his property. It is the tallest building on the waterfront and headquarters of Conner Strong & Buckelew, the insurance firm Norcross chairs.

According to the filing, Norcross also intervened in the sale of the L3 complex. Norcross had hoped to use the site as the offices of Cooper Health, where both he and Philip are board members. Upon learning that a nonprofit redevelopment organization planned to buy the property, the enterprise forced the nonprofit to use its chosen developer and eventually sell its rights for $125,000 rather than "expected millions."

Other defendants named in the indictment are Bill Tambussi, Norcross' longtime personal attorney, and Sidney Brown, another Cooper Health board member. John O'Donnell, an executive at a residential development company, was also indicted.

Patkin Norcross indictmentScreen capture/N.J. Attorney General's Office

A 111-page indictment against George Norcross III was unsealed Monday. Above, N.J. Attorney General Matt Platkin discusses the allegations during a press conference on Monday. In an unusual move, Norcross attended the briefing and is seated in the front row.

New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin announced the charges at a Monday afternoon news conference that got off to a bizarre start as Norcross took a seat in the front row. A member of Platkin's team approached Norcross, seemingly asking him to leave or at least move further back. She later announced that only reporters could ask questions.

After Platkin's briefing, Norcross and his attorney's responded to the accusations outside the justice complex. Norcross called Platkin a "coward" and said "we want to go to trial."

"Two weeks, Matt Plantkin, come join us. Try the case, because your people don't want to try anything," he said. "You get down here and back up your words." 

During his press conference, Platkin said: "It's often said that New Jersey politics is a blood sport, and what's meant by that is that if you don't go along with the demands of those in political power, you'll get hurt. You might lose your job. Might lose your business. Maybe you'll lose your reputation, or maybe the very government that you vote for, that you support with your tax dollars, that exists to serve you will instead by weaponized against you. 

"All of these consequences are on full display in this indictment. But there is nothing inherent in our state's culture that requires us to accept politics and government that functions in this way."

Last week, two South Jersey Transportation Authority commissioners – Christopher M. Milam and Bryan J. Bush – were indicted for allegedly misusing their positions to delay the authority's payments to a contractor who crossed Norcross. Norcross was not named in the indictment, but was referred to as a leader of South Jersey's Democratic Party. He was not charged with a crime. 

Platkin's office as well as the FBI and Justice Department had been investigating Norcross and his associates for years, according to a release. The defendants face 13 counts of first-degree racketeering and conspiracy to commit theft by extortion, first-degree financial facilitation of criminal activity, second-degree misconduct by a corporate official and second-degree official misconduct. If convicted, they each could face decades in prison as well as hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines.

Their arraignment is scheduled for 10 a.m. on July 9.

The indictment follows the news late last week that the New Jersey Attorney General's Office charged two board members of the South Jersey Transportation Authority of withholding payments to a contractor for work the company had down as political retribution. That case also stemmed from an investigation by the attorney general's Office of Public Integrity and Accountability.

Christopher Milam, the vice president of the SJTA board, and Bryan Bush, a board commissioner, are accused of colluding to block payments to an civil engineering firm. According to Platkin's office an employee at that firm is a Mercer County Commissioner who had "defied instructions from a South Jersey Democratic Party leader to remain neutral in a Democratic primary election for Mercer County executive.

Milam and Bush, as SJTA board members, voted three times in 2023 against authorizing the payment to the engineering firm, preventing the board from getting the five votes needed for approval. Their votes allegedly followed behind the scenes discussions and were the continuation of the fued with the Mercer County Commissioner and a South Jersey Democratic Party leader, who was not named by Platkin's office.

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Managing Editor Jon Tuleya contributed to this article.