When Julie Angarone met her husband Philip three years ago to talk about their impending divorce, she had no idea their cordial conversation would blow the lid off a secret that was kept hidden for years.
Suspicious because her husband had asked to meet in a public place, wondering if she could trust what he said about his real income, Julie Angarone secretly recorded the meeting.
What she heard floored her — and would soon floor the entire state.
With the tape rolling, Philip Angarone said he was making illegal campaign donations for his company, Birdsall Services Group, as part of a wide-ranging scheme to curry favor with politicians handing out contracts.
Three months later, Julie Angarone shared that admission with state authorities, touching off an investigation into one of the largest pay-to-play scandals in New Jersey history. It would lead to criminal charges against her husband and eight others and bring down one of the state’s biggest engineering firms.
Through it all, Julie Angarone has never spoken publicly about the tape or the meeting or why she went to the police.
But now she’s breaking her silence.
“After three months of deliberation, I did what I thought to be the right thing,” Julie Angarone told The Star-Ledger. “This was a huge decision for me. I had nothing to gain from it. I was never interested in hurting my ex or anyone else.”
Though she declined a formal interview, Angarone said in a statement that turning in her husband was best for their children.
“If I didn’t turn him in and it was found out that I was aware, would I get in trouble as well?” she said. “What impact would that have on my children? I had no way of knowing how big the issue was.”
It turned out to be huge.
Over at least six years, the company ran a massive scheme to circumvent laws designed to prevent contractors from essentially buying lucrative public contracts with political donations to elected officials.