The chief executive officer of one of the leading privatized military housing companies has taken a leave of absence after being indicted by a New Jersey grand jury on racketeering charges that are unrelated to military properties.

The Michaels Organization announced June 18 that CEO John O’Donnell has temporarily left the role “to focus on vigorously defending himself against allegations” in Monday’s indictment. Military Times was unable to reach O’Donnell for further comment.

The Michaels Organization has been one of the Defense Department’s privatized housing partners since 2004 and currently owns and manages more than 18,000 homes at 11 installations across the country. Military housing is just one part of its residential real estate business, which serves more than 200,000 residents in more than 600 communities across 39 states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands.

O’Donnell, 61, of Newtown, Pennsylvania, is one of six co-defendants named in the indictment who are charged with first-degree racketeering. The indictment alleges that through a criminal enterprise run by George Norcross III and his associates, the defendants committed unlawful acts to obtain property and property rights on New Jersey’s Camden waterfront, collected millions of dollars in government-issued tax credits, and “controlled and influenced government officials to further the interests of the enterprise” as early as 2012.

The indictment describes George Norcross as a member of the Democratic National Committee, the former chair of the Camden County Democratic Committee, chair of the board of trustees of Cooper University Health Care, and executive chair of the insurance firm Conner Strong & Buckelew.

Dana Redd, who served as Camden’s mayor from 2010 to 2018, is also named as a defendant.

“On full display in this indictment is how a group of unelected, private businessmen used their power and influence to get government to aid their criminal enterprise and further its interests,” New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin said upon announcing the charges. “The alleged conduct of the Norcross enterprise has caused great harm to individuals, businesses, non-profits, the people of the State of New Jersey, and especially the City of Camden and its residents.”

The indictment doesn’t name The Michaels Organization as being charged. The properties at the center of the allegations are two buildings along the Camden waterfront — an office tower and a market-rate apartment community. O’Donnell is also a partner in the groups that own those Camden buildings. Michaels constructed the residential building, according to the indictment.

As of 2023, The Michaels Organization had received $12.6 million in New Jersey tax incentives, which it sold for $11.6 million. From 2013 to 2023, O’Donnell received about $11.3 million in wages from The Michaels Organization, where he has held a series of leadership positions, according to the indictment.

It’s unclear whether the allegations could affect the company as a whole.

First-degree racketeering charges carry a sentence of 10 to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $200,000 in New Jersey. According to the indictment, the state intends to seek additional financial penalties, including the forfeiture of proceeds from criminal activity.

The 111-page, 13-count indictment was the result of a long criminal investigation led by the New Jersey attorney general’s office, with support from the FBI’s Newark and Philadelphia field offices, the New Jersey state police, and others.

Arraignment for the defendants is scheduled for July 9.

Mark Morgan, who has been with Michaels for more than 35 years, most recently as chief operating officer, has assumed the role of CEO, the company said. All business operations at Michaels continue as usual, officials said in a press release.

“John O’Donnell has been a trusted colleague and industry leader for more than 30 years, and has our organization’s full support during this difficult time,” Morgan said in the release.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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