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Fort Lee Developer Admits $50,000 Palisades Park Karaoke Bribery Scheme

Photo Credit: CLIFFVIEW PILOT File Photo

PALISADES PARK, N.J. -- A real estate developer from Fort Lee admitted Thursday in federal court in Newark that he tried soliciting a $50,000 bribe for a borough official from a businessman who wanted to open a karaoke operation in Palisades Park.

Chung S. Kho, 68, pleaded guilty to a single count of using facilities in interstate commerce to promote bribery, U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman said. Sentencing was scheduled for July 18.

The probe began after Kho told the businessman “there would be no problem” obtaining a change of use to open a karaoke business in a Broad Avenue building he owned, a federal complaint on file in U.S. District Court alleges.

Kho “bragged about his close relationship with an official in Palisades Park who had influence over official matters in the borough” and “boasted that he previously had received help” from the official in getting approvals for two large-scale commercial buildings in town, the FBI complaint says.

Kho also directed him to hire a particular architect and contractor whom he said “are well-connected to the borough,” it says.

The man signed a lease in October 2010 to operate the karaoke business on the property. Kho then called the borough official and asked about approving the change of use, the complaint says.

During one of several meetings between Kho and the business owner, he asked for the $50,000 bribe, it says.

Kho held up five fingers indicating the amount, which the businessman mistook for $5,000 before Kho clarified, the complaint says.

He later tried to negotiate the price to $30,000, but Kho refused, demanding $50,000 in cash that he said he would pass on to the borough official, it says.

The borough Planning Board later denied the change-of-use application, records show.

Several months passed before Kho met at the property with another person who became a confidential government source, the FBI complaint says.

As agents secretly listened it, the individual told Kho that his friend, the business owner, felt that he’d been treated unfairly.

Kho is heard replying: “It is unfair, but I told him, ‘Hey, that side (meaning the Borough Official) wants this’.”

He then held up five fingers and mouthed the word in Korean for $50,000, the complaint says.

Kho later said the business owner would have to pay “the money” or “the game [was] over,” it says.

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