Camden's Questionable Mayor

Did He Deal Drugs?

Milton Milan was elected mayor of Camden, N.J., by people who hoped he could solve the city's problems.

Instead, Milan became the problem – and Camden's third mayor in 20 years to be convicted of corruption. His conviction is also one of the reasons the state of New Jersey is attempting to take almost total control of Camden, the nation's second-poorest city. But Milan tells 60 Minutes Correspondent Steve Kroft he's innocent.

Milan says he didn't do the things he was convicted of, including taking bribes from the Mafia and money laundering, and denies he once dealt drugs. He says it's a case of guilt by association. "I've been… persecuted and I've been condemned to be a second- class citizen because of where I come from, because of the people I knew," he says.

One of those people he knows from the tough Camden neighborhood he grew up in is Luis Medina, for whom, Milan says, he sold shoes in the late 1980s. But Medina, in prison for dealing drugs, says it was drugs and not shoes the disgraced mayor once sold. "Milton was selling drugs in the street. He was just like one of us," says Medina. "He just never got caught," he says. Milan says he never knew Medina dealt drugs and that Medina has no credibility. Other convicted drug dealers have said Milan was dealing, too.

Milan will be sentenced June 15 for crimes like taking bribes from Ralph Natale, once Philadelphia's Mafia boss, and for laundering money for one of Camden's biggest drug dealers. He may never face drug charges - there is a statute of limitations - but according to police reports, he was questioned in the 1988 murder of a drug dealer – a crime with no statute of limitations. Milan denies involvement and admits he was questioned about the murder, even volunteering to take a polygraph test. He claims he didn't know how he fared on the test, but 60 Minutes discovered he failed it miserably. "It doesn't mean anything," Milan says of the polygraph. Camden County Prosecutor Lee Solomon tells Kroft, "Nobody…questioned in connection with this homicide has been ruled out as a suspect."

The latest hope for Camden, so poor that the Peace Corps trains volunteers there for Third World conditions, is an oversight plan announced last week by acting New Jersey Governor Donald DiFrancesco. If passed by the state legislature, it would strip Camden's government of most of its powers and invest $150 million to revitalize the city.

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