JACKSON TOWNSHIP, NJ – The FBI has been interviewing people in and around Jackson Township over the past month, asking questions about the inner workings of the administration of Jackson Township Mayor Michael Reina. The investigation is being led by Special Agent Sean McCarthy, who was the lead investigator in the federal case against former Jackson Township Municipal Attorney George Gilmore.
Several individuals have confirmed having contact with the FBI and sitting for hours long sessions of questions and answers, including document and fact-finding inquiries with the FBI at the FBI’s Red Bank field office. The FBI, as is their policy cannot confirm nor deny the existence of the investigation, but Shore News Network has first-hand knowledge of the investigation after meeting with McArthy ourselves in September.
From our conversation, here are five possible items we figure the FBI could be looking at in Jackson:
- The Department of Justice has an ongoing civil suit filed against Mike Reina and the Township of Jackson. Rumors swirled early in that investigation that if the township played games with the FBI over the civil matter, the case can easily jump to a criminal investigation over the alleged civil rights violations against residents in the community and the township’s alleged connection to known hate groups and hate group leaders. All of that information was made public in the DOJ’s filing against the township.
- In 2019, Mayor Michael Reina met with land developer Vito Cardinale in an Atlantic City lounge at a private party held by Sal Alfieri, the attorney for Jackson Trails and Adventure Crossing USA. The meeting happened after a civil lawsuit against Cardinale was victorious and Cardinale admitted publicly that the verdict put the whole project in jeopardy. After meeting with Alfieri and Cardinale, Reina had dinner with Cardinale nearby. A few days later, Reina introduced a spot zoning ordinance for council approval that would rescue Cardinale’s project. Reina and Cardinale have a close relationship. Reina, at a recent Jackson Chamber of Commerce, was referred to by Cardinale as “A brother from another”. The two men claim business and pleasure never mix, but agents have been making inquiries into the reality of that relationship which included hunting and fishing expeditions. If Reina is found to have received gifts from Cardinale or if Cardinale had received special treatment from Reina, that could be a problem in the eyes of the FBI.
- FEMA fraud. Several years ago, Reina was alleged to have told department supervisors to commit FEMA insurance fraud by damaging township equipment in order to inflate FEMA reimbursements after Hurricane Sandy. Shore News Network found out through a law enforcement source that Reina was being investigated then by the FBI, but, the case eventually ceased after Reina allegedly ordered the township to reimburse FEMAf for approximately $50,000 in fraudulent claims. It was also told that Reina was cooperating with the FBI on other matters in exchange for leniency on the FEMA fraud, according to our high-level law enforcement source.
- Reina has been working his way up the political food chain in recent years by being a deal maker. Starting as a bankrupted painter, Reina ran for council, then got a job with the New Jersey Department of Homeland Security through his relationship with Governor Chris Christie. Not happy when Christie told Reina he couldn’t double-dip and take his mayoral salary, Reina received a patronage job from the County of Ocean as a bridge inspector. Reina had no previous experience in the field. Reina maintains, close, often questionable ties to local developers, professionals and engineers who he receives large sums of campaign contributions from each year. In return for those contributions, Reina appoints those professionals to high paying public contracts paid for by the taxpayers of Jackson.
- It has been told by our law enforcement source that Reina’s prior case with the FBI had suddenly been closed, without cause or reason. Perhaps Reina is not the actual target of the investigation, but the trove of information a person in Reina’s position can provide the agency is more valuable than the agency taking down a small time mayor in a backwoods New Jersey town. It could be that the FBI is looking into something bigger, perhaps the corruption that is rampant in Ocean County. Having such a trusted insider such as Reina working with the agency would provide Reina immunity from his own transgressions and corruption in Jackson could help the FBI go after the bigger fish in the Jersey Shore pond of corruption.
One thing is certain at this point, the FBI is investigating what is going on in Jackson Township and Reina has been the center of most of that questioning according to people who have been called upon to talk. The FBI told us during our meeting at this point, there is no gag order on what was discussed and we checked with the agency prior to reporting the investigation. Time will tell when or if the morning will come when a convoy of dark-colored SUV’s pull up once again at the home of an Ocean County public official in the early morning darkness.