REPORTS: LYNCH, WESTLAKE TO COP PLEAS

Former state Senate President and Democratic powerbroker John E. Lynch Jr. will plead guilty to federal charges in Newark today, according to stories moved late yesterday by the Asbury Park Press, the Star-Ledger and the New York Times.

Just_in_6
In addition, the Times report says that Jack Westlake, a partner with Lynch in a Tinton Falls-based consulting firm, will plead guilty to failing to pay income taxes on $350,000 in earnings from a business deal with Lynch.

As it has in the past, the Ledger refers to Westlake as a “Red Bank developer,” though other reports identify him as a Highlands resident. No Monmouth County phone listing or property record under Westlake’s name could immediately be found last night.

The Ledger says Lynch will plead guilty to “federal corruption charges.” But the Times appears to have gotten more detail, reporting that Lynch’s deal with U.S. Attorney Chris Christie covers charges of “tax evasion and misusing his public office to enrich his own business.”

From the Times:

The tax evasion charges reportedly stem from a commission, or “success fee,” that Mr Lynch and his business partner, Jack Westlake, received for the sale of a property on Route 1 in Middlesex County in 1999. Mr. Westlake received a $350,000 commission that he did not declare as income, his lawyer, John Whipple, said, and he will plead guilty to a single count of tax evasion, which carries a sentence of at least 10 months in prison.

Mr. Lynch declined to return calls requesting comment about the case. But others familiar with the plea negotiations said that Mr. Lynch failed to declare income of more than $30,000 from that transaction, and that he will plead guilty to tax evasion.

People involved in the case said that the corruption charge against Mr. Lynch involved a business deal in 1998, when he was still Senate president, but no other details were available. Mr. Lynch is expected to face a prison sentence of 33 to 41 months, lawyers involved in the negotiations said.

From the Ledger:

Westlake, now 76, has shared a consulting business with Lynch in Tinton Falls since 1993. It was unclear last night if he would be charged with or plead guilty to anything. Through his attorney, he has previously denied any wrongdoing.

Lynch has said the partnership, operating under the names Alma Ltd. and Executive Continental Ltd., offered developers and other contractors assistance in navigating the maze of municipal approvals. In one interview, he described himself as “a facilitator” or “choreographer.”

FBI and IRS agents raided the pair’s office last fall, seizing contracts, documents, computer files and other items related to the business. They also served subpoenas on nine municipalities, seeking records related to Lynch, Westlake, their companies, and dozens of developers and contractors.

By this spring, investigators had narrowed their focus to Lynch’s role in about a half-dozen projects, mainly in and around Middlesex County…

Sources said the developers of some of the projects, as well as the mayors and other public officials in the towns in which they were built, were among the witnesses called to the grand jury.

E-mail this story