Political boss George Norcross pleads not guilty in NJ corruption scheme

New Jersey Democratic power broker and insurance executive George Norcross pleaded not guilty to racketeering charges Tuesday morning, in his first court appearance since he was indicted last month as part of a widespread corruption scheme.

Norcross and four others — his brother Phillip Norcross, his personal attorney William Tambussi, developer John O’Donnell and ex-Camden mayor Dana Redd — are accused of leading a “criminal enterprise” to collect millions of dollars in tax credits by controlling property deals on the Camden waterfront and hijacking a development program for the poorest city in New Jersey.

The codefendants all pleaded not guilty at Mercer County Criminal Courthouse in Trenton.

Sidney Brown — the CEO of trucking company NFI and fifth codefendant — has his arraignment delayed until August as his attorney, Larry Lustberg, is representing a codefendant of Sen. Bob Menendez in a corruption trial in New York.

Prosecutors said they have collected more than 13,000 pages of evidence and 2.5 million documents and audio files dating from 2012 to 2024.

“The indictment has a lot of words, a lot of pages, a lot of allegations,” Michael Critchley, Norcross’ attorney, told reporters after the arraignment. “But one thing it does not have, it does not have elements of a crime.”

Critchley said he plans to file a motion to dismiss the indictment.

Norcross, 68, is the executive chairman of the insurance firm Conner, Strong & Buckelew and is also the chairman of the board of trustees for Cooper Health. He now lives in Palm Beach, Fla.

His brother Phillip is a lobbyist who helped design the tax incentive legislation the six are accused of abusing. It was signed into law by then-Gov. Chris Christie.

New Jersey Attorney General Matt Platkin said the enterprise extorted and threatened anyone who got in its way, turning the Camden waterfront into Norcross’ fiefdom.

Among the accusations, Norcross allegedly strong-armed a developer into giving up the property rights to what became the 18-story office plaza Triad 1828 Centre. Prosecutors said Norcross eyed the property as the new headquarters to his insurance firm.

A previous investigation into Norcross’ political dealings in the early 2010s resulted in no charges.

Norcross is one of the most powerful unelected Democrats in New Jersey and considered the de facto head of the South Jersey delegation. He is also involved in national politics.

His brother Donald is a Democratic member of the House representing New Jersey’s 1st U.S. Congressional District. The congressman is not accused of any wrongdoing.