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  Matthews, Michael J.
NameMichael J. Matthews
Atlantic City, New Jersey , United States
Born January 07, 1934
DiedJanuary 02, 2014 (79 years)
Last ModifedRBH
Feb 08, 2015 11:38pm
InfoMichael J. Matthews (January 7, 1934, in Upland, Pennsylvania) was mayor of Atlantic City, New Jersey, from 1982 to 1984. He was only mayor for 21 months before he was recalled and sent to prison for extortion while serving as mayor.

Matthews graduated from Atlantic City High School and received a degree in business administration from American University in 1966. He was elected to the Linwood City Council in 1969 and served as Atlantic County Freeholder from 1972 to 1974. He represented the 2nd legislative district in the New Jersey General Assembly from 1978 to 1984.

After moving into Atlantic City, he was elected to the City Commission in 1980, serving as director of Revenue and Finance. After voters changed the form of government to directly elect mayors in 1981, he was elected mayor on June 15, 1982, over James Usry.

Voters recalled him in a March 13, 1984, referendum, shortly before he was indicted March 27, 1984, on federal extortion charges of using his office to extort bribes from businessmen to benefit himself and organized crime associates.

In the indictment, released by United States Attorney W. Hunt Dumont, Matthews was accused of having close dealings with Nicodemo "Little Nicky" Scarfo for years, dating to before he was mayor. Scarfo was an American mafioso member of the U.S. Cosa Nostra and head of the Philadelphia crime family that also controlled organized crime in South Jersey. Matthews allegedly turned a blind eye to the actions of his primary supporters Scarfo and Phillip "Crazy Phil" Leonetti, joining them in shaking down others and concentrating on extorting money from city officials.

Matthews was charged with the attempted extortion of $668,000 from two businesses set up by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and with taking $14,000 in bribes from an undercover F.B.I. agent posing as a representative of the companies.

Matthews pleaded guilty to one count of extortion on November 27, 1984, four weeks after the trial started. By admitting to accepting a $10,000 bribe from an FBI agent posing as a businessman who wanted his help in buying a parcel of city-owned land zoned for casinos on favorable terms, government dropped seven other counts.

The dropped counts alleged further extortion, bribery and conspiracy, including one alleging that Matthews had conspired with organized crime figures to use his office for their benefit in return for campaign financing.

He was sentenced in 1985 to 15 years in federal prison and was paroled in June 1990.

Frank Lentino, identified as a close associate of New Jersey organized crime, as well as a business agent for UNITE HERE Local 54, admitted to conspiring with Matthews and reputed organized crime leaders in return for the Mayor's aid in getting a city contract and in favorably purchasing city-owned land zoned for casinos.

Thomas Russo, then the city's director of the Department of Planning and Development, was acquitted April 13, 1985, on charges of conspiracy, extortion and attempted extortion in connection with allegations he accepted $8,000 in payoffs in connection with proposed land sales.

Usry succeeded Matthews as Mayor after the recall election.

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Date Category Headline Article Contributor

Importance? 0.00000 Average


  11/03/1981 NJ General Assembly 02 Won 27.05% (+0.00%)
  11/06/1979 NJ General Assembly 02 Won 26.29% (+0.00%)
  11/08/1977 NJ General Assembly 02 Won 25.89% (+1.60%)
  06/07/1974 NJ District 2 - D Primary Lost 22.37% (-32.60%)
  06/05/1973 NJ State Senate 02 - D Primary Lost 49.64% (-0.72%)
  11/02/1982 NJ General Assembly 02 - Special Election Won 0.00% (-46.27%)