• If convicted Gilmore could face decades in prison
• In a bid to win the sympathy of the judge , Gilmore claims he is mentally ill
Ocean County Republican Chairman George R. Gilmore, indicted Thursday on federal tax charges, has a “hoarding disorder” that the U.S. Attorney’s Office was aware of before it sought an indictment, his lawyer, Kevin Marino, said Friday.
The indictment issued Thursday by a federal grand jury found that Gilmore spent more than $2.5 million on personal expenses — including antiques, artwork, animal tusks and marble flooring — even though he owed more than $1 million in federal taxes.
News of his indictment sent shockwaves through Ocean County’s political establishment; Gilmore has served as party chairman since 1996, and has headed the county Board of Elections since 1995.
His organization’s ability to turn out Republican voters in both local and statewide elections has made him “the most important Republican Party chair in the state,” according to Brigid Harrison, a professor of political science and law at Montclair State University.
Gilmore & Monahan, the Toms River law firm in which he is a partner, is estimated to make more than $2 million each year from taxpayer-funded legal work in a number of Republican-controlled towns in Ocean County, including Jackson, Lacey, Little Egg Harbor Township, Plumsted, Berkeley and Seaside Heights.
According to the indictment, Gilmore spent more than $2.5 million on personal expenses from about January 2014 to December 2016, even though he admitted owing hundreds of thousands of dollars in federal taxes for each of those years.
Gilmore, 69, of Toms River, was charged with one count of income tax evasion for the calendar years 2013, 2014 and 2015; two counts of filing false tax returns for calendar years 2013 and 2014; failing to collect, account for, and pay payroll taxes for two quarters in 2016, and making false statements on a 2015 loan application submitted to OceanFirst Bank, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
His purchases included: $440,000 in antiques, artwork and collectibles, including animal tusks; more than $80,000 for model trains; more than $100,000 for Colorado vacations; over $700,000 for mortgages and related expenses on five different properties he owned; and more than $380,000 for construction and remodeling of his homes, which included an infinity swimming pool, a pool cabana, a slate roof, marble flooring and mahogany and cherry wood fireplace mantels, among other features.
The indictment also states that in October 2014, Gilmore sent the IRS a $493,526 check as payment for his 2013 taxes despite having no more than $2,500 in his personal bank account at the time. Gilmore’s check bounced, and he never resubmitted payment in lieu of the bounced check.
If convicted and given the maximum penalty, he could face decades in prison and hefty fines.
Marino did not elaborate on Gilmore’s hoarding disorder, instead referring a reporter to “DSM-5,” the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association. He said again that Gilmore intends to fight the charges, which Marino has characterized as “a lame, ersatz tax case.”
The American Psychiatric Association recognizes “hoarding disorder” as a behavior in which an individual accumulates a large number of possessions that often fill up or clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that their intended use is no longer possible, according to the manual.
A person who suffers from the disorder has persistent difficulty discarding or parting with possessions, regardless of the value others may attribute to these possessions, according to the manual. “The behavior usually has harmful effects — emotional, physical, social, financial and even legal— for the person suffering from the disorder and family members,” the manual reads.
An estimated 2 to 5 percent of the population suffers from the disorder, according to the American Psychiatric Association.
Gilmore said in a text message Friday that he has no plans to resign as county chair or leave his position at the election board. He referred all other questions to his lawyer.
Federal subpoenas for records related to Gilmore were issued in 2017 to Ocean County towns in which Gilmore’s law firm did business. Last year, the U.S. Attorney’s Office issued a subpoena to Seaside Heights, seeking “any and all records” related to a controversial beach-swap deal between the borough and the owners of Casino Pier.
Under the terms of the beach-swap deal, the pier owners traded the historic 1910 Dentzel/Looff carousel and a parking lot located between Sampson and Carteret avenues for 1.36 acres of public beach on the north side of the pier.
The swap allowed Casino Pier — badly damaged by superstorm Sandy in October 2012 — to expand. It was strongly supported by Gilmore, as well as borough officials and many business owners.
“After serving grand jury subpoenas seeking evidence of political corruption on every town with which Mr. Gilmore conducts business — literally for years — the United States Attorney’s Office could manage only this lame, ersatz tax case,” Marino said on Thursday.
So far, Ocean County Republican officials have expressed support for Gilmore, while Democrats have made no public comments.
Freeholder Jack Kelly, one of the most influential voices in Ocean County government and county Republican politics, said he would not support any move to remove or seek the resignation of Gilmore from his posts.
Kelly said he met Gilmore for lunch on Friday to assure him that he would not be abandoned by his friends, and the chairman indicated to the freeholder his intention to fight the charges in federal court.
“George Gilmore is doing a great job as chairman of the Board of Elections and as chairman of the county Republican organization,” Kelly said. “I’ve known George for 40 years, and I know him to be an honest man.”
Kelly, who spoke to at least three of his colleagues on the freeholder board Friday, said none of them suggested Gilmore step down.
The freeholder emphasized that Gilmore is not accused of any public corruption and has the presumption of innocence.
Seaside Heights Mayor Anthony Vaz said he could not comment on the Gilmore indictment because he had not yet read it. Gilmore grew up in Seaside Heights, and he or lawyers from his firm have long served as borough attorneys in Seaside.
“I’m going to read the indictment,” Vaz said, noting that council members also had learned of the indictment Thursday.
“They all know what’s going on,” Vaz said. “We all have to read it.”
Toms River Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher said that Gilmore’s firm “has no contractual dealings” in Toms River.
The mayor, a Republican who previously served as Ocean County prosecutor, said he did not know enough about the indictment to comment on it.
“I don’t know all the facts,” Kelaher said. “These things are always unfortunate. I don’t have all the facts, and I’m never going to comment about the case until I’ve read the file.”
As Ocean County’s Republican Party chairman, Gilmore is a leading figure in New Jersey politics. A Democrat has not been elected to countywide office in Ocean since 1989. Ocean County voters were responsible for giving Gov. Chris Christie the electoral push he needed in this otherwise blue state to defeat incumbent Jon S. Corzine in 2009.
In 2016, Ocean County delivered more votes for Donald Trump than any other county in New Jersey, even though Hillary Clinton ultimately won the state’s 14 electoral votes. Gilmore served as a Trump delegate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in July of that year after having become an enthusiastic supporter by the spring.
And in November, Ocean County again delivered, this time for GOP 3rd District Rep. Tom MacArthur, giving the congressman a 30,000-vote margin over Democrat Andy Kim. But Kim won the seat by a razor-thin margin after the Burlington County portion of the district went for Kim by more than 34,000 votes.
As county chairman, Gilmore has immense influence over public patronage and which candidates for elected office get the financial and organizational support of the party.
Ben Dworkin, director of the Rowan University Institute for Public Policy & Citizenship, said Gilmore, “is widely considered and respected for being one of the savviest political minds in the party,” and noted that his support has proven crucial to GOP candidates seeking statewide office.
Gilmore essentially decides which candidates would be awarded the coveted party line — or preferred ballot position — in primary elections. This is particularly important as nine out of 10 state races result in the dominant party in an area winning in November.
But Dworkin said he is unsure if Gilmore will be able to retain his political power, given the charges against him.
“It’s going to be tough for him to fight this,” Dworkin said. “We don’t see people getting around these types of things.”
Montclair State’s Harrison was less pessimistic about Gilmore’s ability to beat the charges and retain the leadership of Ocean County Republicans.
“This is not necessary career-ending like it might be in some other fields or in some other places,” Harrison said.
“These are financial allegations,” Harrison noted, that involve Gilmore’s personal taxes. “We have kind of a history of parties supporting candidates when there has not been a conviction, and there is good reason for that. The reason is, sometimes indictments are politically motivated. I am not saying it is in this case, but in some cases these allegations have not stuck.”
Harrison said she was referring to some cases connected to government informant Solomon Dwek, a real estate investor from Ocean Township who began cooperating with the FBI after being charged with $50 million in bank fraud.
For example, former Jersey City mayoral candidate Louis Manzo, one of 45 people arrested in 2009 as part of a statewide money-laundering and public corruption sting, was accused of taking cash and campaign contributions from Dwek. But the charges against him eventually were thrown out by U.S. District Judge Jose Linares. Linares ruled Manzo was not an elected official, and thus could not be charged under the federal bribery statute.
Harrison noted that even if Gilmore were to beat the charges against him, defending himself “presents an incredibly important distraction” for the county chairman.
“This is going to take enormous resources, time, energy,” she said. “This is not the kind of thing Republicans want one of their most important leaders focusing on.”