To New Jersey’s most famous con man, he’s “Uncle Kenny,” a family insider who shared the spoils of elaborate Ponzi schemes, according to federal bankruptcy filings. But Kenneth Cayre, a wealthy Monmouth County entrepreneur, was set to become an influential player at one of the state’s new nonprofit medical marijuana centers: a potential landlord, member of the medical advisory board and, through his foundation, a beneficiary. Cayre was removed from the Compassionate Care Centers of America Foundation, a planned medical marijuana clinic in Central Jersey, last week after The Star-Ledger inquired about his connection to Solomon Dwek, scam artist and the star informant in the massive 2009 sting that led to charges against 46 defendants in New Jersey and New York. One of the center’s directors, Michael Weisser, said Monday he didn’t know about Cayre’s relationship with Dwek, who is in federal prison in Philadelphia awaiting sentencing.
Weisser, who lives in Florida and is Cayre’s neighbor there, said he had never heard of Dwek. By Wednesday, Weisser had ousted Cayre. “Mr. Cayre has been terminated from our Advisory Board and has no position or relationship of any kind with Compassionate Care Centers of America Foundation, Inc.,” Weisser said in a letter to The Star-Ledger.The revelation brought to light new questions about the state’s medical marijuana program and elicited a response from Gov. Chris Christie, who knows quite a bit about Dwek.
As U.S. attorney, Christie launched the corruption investigation that led to the sting.”Let’s be absolutely clear, if an applicant is inappropriate or otherwise unfit to run one of these alternative treatment centers, that applicant will be denied a license,” said Michael Drewniak, Christie’s spokesman. “The governor has had serious concerns about implementation of the program, and those concerns remain during the selection and licensing process.”Cayre is traveling abroad and did not respond to several requests for comment for this story. His attorney, Marc Gurell, declined to comment. But in a sworn statement for the bankruptcy court, Cayre has denied any wrongdoing or close association with Dwek.
The bankruptcy trustee charged with cleaning up after Dwek, Charles Stanziale, is suing Cayre, his real estate company and his charitable foundation to recoup more than $30 million. He alleges the money came to Cayre through Dwek’s Ponzi schemes.”At some point in time, he knew or should have known that (Dwek’s scheme) was a fraudulent scheme, but he continued to put the money in,” Stanziale told The Star-Ledger. “Under the law, I’m entitled to get everything he put in back. That’s the way the law is supposed to work.”
Well known in the Syrian Jewish community, Cayre and his brothers founded a record label called Salsoul and a video game company that was later sold to Atari. Cayre and his sons also own more than 75 properties, some on Madison Avenue, 34th Street, and Lower Broadway, according to his biography in the marijuana center’s application. In a sworn statement filed with the court, Dwek describes a close relationship with Cayre, who is the uncle of Dwek’s wife, Pearl. Dwek said he helped Cayre launder money through the Deal Yeshiva, a Jewish school, to receive large tax deductions for Cayre’s foundation.
“At some point in time, the size of Ken Cayre’s requests for money laundering were very large, and I was fearful of being caught by the authorities,” Dwek wrote.Cayre disputes the allegations and takes offense at being called Dwek’s uncle, according to his own statement, which has since been withdrawn from the court by his lawyers, pending discovery. Cayre has not been charged with any crime and has no criminal record. “I am not the uncle of, or otherwise related to, Dwek,” he said. “Dwek is married to my wife’s sister’s daughter.”
Cayre denies he and Dwek had “anything other than an arm’s-length business relationship,” according to his statement. “While I have come to learn that Dwek defrauded many people, including me, I did not know about his misdeeds at the time I made any of my investments,” Cayre said. After Dwek pulled off a now-infamous check kiting scam in which he defrauded PNC Bank, Dwek used some of the money to pay Cayre $2.2 million, court documents show.”Ken Cayre knew that I was engaged in sham transactions,” Dwek said in his own statement. “In fact, Ken Cayre called me a crook and a fraudster. Even after knowing about the fraud, Ken Cayre continued to invest with me and wanted to be my partner in additional deals.”
THE VETTING PROCESS
The bankruptcy papers seem to raise questions about the overall status of New Jersey’s medical marijuana program. Participants in the state’s six new marijuana centers are supposed to be thoroughly vetted by the Department of Health and Senior Services, so word spread quickly that the Cayre-Dwek connection could be found through a simple Google search, a source at Compassionate Care said.The health department publicly announced in March that six applicants had been “selected to operate” marijuana centers and even projected a summer launch of the centers.But Donna Leusner, the department’s spokeswoman, said the March announcement actually meant that the applications had been approved with the intent to award permits.
“The process is not over,” Leusner said. “The department has not issued permits yet for any of the alternative treatment centers. No one will be able to begin the business of growing or dispensing medical marijuana until this process is completed.”Leusner did not answer specific questions about how far along the state was in vetting the centers or if the background checks had even started. According to the program regulations, principals, directors, board members and owners are subject to review, including criminal background checks, when the state is “considering any application for a permit.”
The regulations also allow the department to review “any other factors or qualifications the Department considers relevant to and consistent with ensuring public health and safety.”Bill Thomas, the CEO and president of a separate dispensary planning to operate in South Jersey, said he hasn’t been fingerprinted and doesn’t know if the department has done any background checks.In August, when he and the other five dispensary owners met with the health department, he asked for a letter documenting that his nonprofit was selected to grow and sell medical marijuana, in case he needed to show landlords or anyone else needed to get the business moving, he said. “We asked for a letter, they said they would send it, and we have not seen it,’’ Thomas said Thursday. Verbally, the state gave “the go-ahead to go forward,” he said. Leusner did not answer questions about whether the state would reopen the application process or go forward with fewer centers if a disqualification occurred.
“Before the process is complete, the department believes it is premature to discuss what would happen in the event of a disqualification,” Leusner said. Weisser, one of Compassionate Care’s directors, said attorney John Inglesino represented the medical marijuana center and could speak more about the issue. When reached by phone Tuesday, Inglesino said his representation of the group ended more than a month ago. Last week, the lobbying firm Impact NJ also decided to cut ties with Compassionate Care, said Raj Mukherji, the firm’s managing partner.
In Compassionate Care’s application for the marijuana center, the group listed Cayre’s property on Joyce Kilmer Avenue in New Brunswick as the planned site, with about 90,000 rentable square feet. That site was later abandoned, Weisser said, because of zoning issues. The center still plans to open in December, he said. The application also lists Cayre, who has no apparent medical expertise, as a member of the center’s medical advisory board.
Since the medical marijuana center is a nonprofit organization, any potential profits from the business would be directed to designated beneficiaries. Meadowlands Hospital in Secaucus is also involved with Compassionate Care, according to the application, which names Meadowlands executive Anastasia Burlyuk as a vice president and lists the hospital’s foundation as a beneficiary.
The Kenneth and Lillian Cayre Foundation, Cayre’s foundation named in the court papers, is also listed as a beneficiary, along with a foundation named in memory of Weisser’s wife, Daria. Weisser has a varied biography, having operated a shrimp fishing fleet in South America and a villa-building company in Spain, according to the center’s application.
via : New Jersey Star-Ledger
You must be logged in to post a comment.