Holmdel Township is asking a judge to restrain Matthew O’Donnell, the state’s cooperating witness in a political corruption probe, from selling any property owned by him or his now-defunct law firm until after a civil lawsuit is completed.
The Monmouth County municipality alleges that O’Donnell overbilled taxpayers while he was helping prosecutors with a sting operation.
O’Donnell served as Holmdel’s tax appeals counsel from 2016 to 2019, billing $373,134 during that time. The new firm hired by the municipality in 2020, Gluck Walrath, charged less than half the average annual billing by O’Donnell.
The township is also seeking punitive damages. They also want to hold O’Donnell personally liable for the monies in the event that the law firm’s assets are depleted.
In court documents, attorneys for Holmdel argued that not prohibiting the sale of property could cause “irreparable harm.” That means they are afraid O’Donnell could hide money by selling his Sea Girt home before the resolution of the dispute.
O’Donnell and his firm billed an estimated $6.5 million to county and local government entities after he entered into plea agreements with the state attorney general in July 2018.
The North Jersey lawyer agreed to plead guilty to one count of second degree Conspiracy to Commit Misconduct by a Corporate Official and forfeit $600,00 he made through an elaborate scheme that used illegal straw donors and cash contributions to obtain lucrative taxpayer-funded legal contracts.
The state will recommend that O’Donnell serve eight years in a state prison, according to a plea agreement obtained by the New Jersey Globe through a document request from the state judiciary.
But prosecutors and O’Donnell also agreed that the forfeiture amount would be “be subject to an upward revision to account for prospective profits that the defendant derives from illegal activities occurring after the date of this agreement but in connection with his cooperation.”
O’Donnell entered into a plea agreement on July 30, 2018 that included a permanent disqualification from holding any public position “at the time of this plea.”
Still, prosecutors allowed O’Donnell to serve as municipal attorney in East Hanover and Mount Arlington and as a tax appeal counsel for about 18 other government entities for another 17 months, departing only when he was identified as a cooperating witness and was dropped by most of his clients.
During that time, the state allowed O’Donnell’s criminal enterprise to continue while he billed taxpayers an estimated $4.6 million.
As a cooperating witness, O’Donnell continued to make illegal contributions to candidates and influence elections, this time under the watch of the state attorney general.
O’Donnell has not yet been charged with any crime.
Records show that O’Donnell agreed to be debarred from doing any business with a New Jersey government entity for ten years, effective at the time of his plea in 2018. He remains an attorney in good standing.