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F.B.I. - New Jersey

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Bonnie M. Wells

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September 6, 2007: TRENTON, N.J. - The FBI arrested 11 public officials, including a mayor and two state lawmakers, Thursday in a federal corruption probe that spread across the state, the U.S. Attorney's office said.

The arrests were related to insurance contracts for local governments, a law enforcement officials said on condition of anonymity because the formal announcement was pending.

Democratic state Assemblymen Mims Hackett Jr. and Alfred E. Steele were both arrested, along with Passaic Mayor Samuel Rivera, the law enforcement official said. Also arrested were the chief of staff to Newark's City Council president, Passaic Councilmen Jonathan Soto and Marcellus Jackson, and five Pleasantville school board members.

Initial court appearances were scheduled Thursday afternoon in Trenton.

The U.S. Attorney for New Jersey, Christopher J. Christie, and FBI Special Agent in Charge Weysan Dun scheduled an afternoon news conference to discuss the case.

Hackett, 65, is also the mayor of Orange, a city of about 33,000 residents 15 miles west of New York City. A phone message left at his office wasn't immediately returned Thursday.

Steele, an assemblyman since 1996 and deputy speaker since 2002, works as a Baptist minister in Paterson and is a Passaic County undersheriff. Jenna Pollard, who answered the phone at Steele's office and identified herself as his chief of staff, said she had no comment and didn't know if Steele had a lawyer.

More than 100 public officials in the state have been convicted on federal corruption charges in the last five years.

Thursday's arrests were the latest in an anti-corruption campaign waged by Christie's office. Two other Democratic state senators, Wayne Bryant of Lawnside and Sharpe James of Newark, are among others facing pending corruption charges.

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Associated Press writers David Porter in Newark and Angela Delli Santi in Trenton contributed to this report.

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