Who is Sean Caddle, the operative at center of murder-for-hire plot?
Sean Caddle, whose guilty plea in a murder-for-hire plot stunned New Jersey. (Courtesy photo)
Sean Caddle, the political consultant who admitted Tuesday to hiring two men in 2014 to kill an operative he once employed, has a long and not altogether savory history in the Garden State.
Bill O’Dea, a Hudson County Commissioner, called Caddle “a gun for hire, as most people in that field are.” O’Dea ran campaigns with and against Caddle at times over the last two decades.
“They’re mercenaries. There are some that are purely driven by ideology, but he never struck me as someone driven by ideology,” O’Dea said. “It was a business. It was a profession.”
Caddle, 44, whose October guilty plea to conspiracy to commit murder was made public Tuesday by federal authorities, was a longtime ally to Ray Lesniak, a former state senator and Union County Democrat. He managed Lesniak’s 2017 gubernatorial campaign and aided the power broker in a successful takeover of Elizabeth’s school board.
Lesniak credited Caddle with reversing his political fortunes. The former senator was among New Jersey’s longest-serving lawmakers before leaving the Legislature after his unsuccessful bid for governor.
On Tuesday, Lesniak called Caddle’s guilty plea “mind boggling.”
Caddle had been heavily involved in politics in Union County and outlying towns. He managed the doomed campaign of Oscar Ocasio, a onetime challenger to Elizabeth Mayor Christian Bollwage, and later boosted Elizabeth Board of Education candidates backed by Bollwage using a super PAC called Committee for Economic Growth and Social Justice.
That group, which as a super PAC enjoys far laxer reporting requirements than candidates and political parties, spent hundreds of thousands backing local candidates in Union County, Newark, and Bayonne, among other places, in payments that most often went through Caddle’s consulting firm, Arkady LLC.
The PAC, which has been defunct since April 2018, faced accusations of illegal coordination with campaigns in Elizabeth — super PACS are banned from coordinating with the campaigns they support — and, like numerous other super PACs run by Caddle, failed to file numerous quarterly and year-end reports required by the Federal Election Commission.
Other independent spending groups run by Caddle — including Run Ray Run, which spent more than $160,000 boosting Lesniak’s gubernatorial bid — also failed to file required disclosures.
A similar pattern emerged at more than a half-dozen super PACs erected by Caddle and Gianni Donates, a Harrison tax preparer who was treasurer for many of the same independent expenditure groups.
Often, the PACs received tens of thousands of dollars from social welfare nonprofits. These groups, often referred to as 501(c)4s, are not required to report where their contributions come from, further shielding the already opaque sources of the independent spending.
Caddle has also faced scrutiny over political work elsewhere in the country. In 2010, the voter registrar of Harris County in Texas accused Houston Votes, where Caddle was director, of submitting thousands of fraudulent voter registration applications. Caddle denied those charges.
Caddle faces a sentence of up to life in prison for his admitted role in the murder-for-hire scheme that left dead a Hudson County political operative who once worked for Caddle’s consulting firm.
The two hitmen, one from Connecticut and another from Philadelphia, stabbed the operative to death in his apartment on May 22, 2014, then set the room ablaze. One of them, Bomani Africa, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of conspiracy to commit murder for hire. Africa, 61, of Philadelphia, is set to be sentenced on June 7 and faces life in prison.
Authorities on Wednesday identified Caddle’s victim as Michael Galdieri.
A day after the slaying, Caddle met with one of the killers and paid him thousands of dollars in a diner parking lot in Elizabeth, authorities said. The other man has not been identified.
Caddle’s plea agreement said he would not be charged for information he divulged in proffer to authorities in September, a hint of monthslong cooperation between Caddle and prosecutors that has sent tremors throughout New Jersey’s political world
The motive for the long-unsolved murder remains unclear. Galdieri’s brother, Richie, wrote on Facebook Monday — before Caddle’s guilty plea had been made public — that he “had given up” on his brother’s killers ever being found before the FBI visited him that day with the news.
“They got ’em, Mike..they got em,” Galdieri wrote.
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