NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — In a stunning revelation even for the rough-and-tumble arena of northern New Jersey politics, a longtime political consultant has admitted he engineered the killing of another political operative nearly eight years ago.
Sean Caddle, a political consultant in northern New Jersey, had the son of a former state senator killed by two hired men, who fatally stabbed the victim in 2014 and set fire to his apartment, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.
Bomani Africa, 61, of Philadelphia, admitted Wednesday in a video conference in Newark federal court that he was one of the men hired by Caddle. He pleaded guilty to conspiring to commit murder-for-hire. Caddle pleaded guilty to the same charge Tuesday.
Caddle, 44, worked on the 2013 and 2017 campaigns for powerful former Democratic state Sen. Ray Lesniak, of Union County.
“The most bizarre thing I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. No ... indication whatsoever,” Lesniak said in a phone interview Wednesday. “He led a double life. While he was running campaigns for me — a lot of them very successful — he was arranging a murder.”
The victim, Michael Galdieri, for years had traveled in the same circles as Caddle and even worked with him at times, according to the U.S. attorney's office.
Much of their work was done in and around Jersey City, infamous as the focal point for a major corruption sting in 2009 that snagged numerous local politicians in a pay-to-play scam involving a government cooperator posing as a crooked developer.
A motive in the scheme was not immediately clear. An attorney for Caddle didn't return a message Wednesday, and Africa's attorney, Bruce Koffsky, declined comment. An automated message on Caddle’s cell phone said he wasn’t accepting calls.
According to authorities, Caddle solicited a Connecticut resident, identified by Africa during his plea hearing as George Bratsenis, in April 2014 to commit the killing in exchange for thousands of dollars. Africa acknowledged that he and Bratsenis went to Galdieri's apartment in Jersey City the following month and killed him. The duo then set fire to Galdieri's apartment, according to prosecutors.
Africa acknowledged that after Caddle learned of Galdieri’s death he paid off Bratsenis in the parking lot of a diner in Elizabeth and that Bratsenis paid him a share of the money.
It’s unclear how much they got.
Africa appeared by videoconference Wednesday from a federal detention center in Rhode Island where he's been held while he awaits sentencing after pleading guilty to an armed bank robbery in Connecticut in 2014, according to the U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut. The robbery occurred about four months after Galdieri's murder. Bratsenis also pleaded guilty in that robbery and is currently awaiting sentencing at a federal detention center in New York, according to court documents.
Africa was sentenced in 1986 to 50 years in prison, with a 25-year period of parole ineligibility, on robbery, assault and drug charges, according to court records in New Jersey.
No charges had been announced against Bratsenis in the murder-for-hire case as of Wednesday afternoon.
“This was a callous and violent crime, and this defendant is as responsible as the two men who wielded the knife,” U.S. Attorney Philip Sellinger said in a statement announcing Caddle's guilty plea.
The judge allowed Caddle to remain free on $1 million unsecured bond, home detention with electronic monitoring and travel restrictions while he faces a sentence of up to life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Africa's status was not clear.
According to court documents, Caddle provided information to authorities in late September, about a month before he signed a plea agreement. In court documents, the government said it is seeking a prison sentence of between 12 1/2 and 25 years, according to court documents.
NJ.com said Galdieri had worked on the campaign of former state Assemblyman Lou Manzo and on Bret Schundler’s run for Jersey City mayor in 1993.
This story has been corrected to show that the government agreed not to pursue further charges as part of the plea agreement. It did not agree to drop additional charges.