Fifth person implicated in NJ cash-for-votes scheme

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NEWARK, N.J. – A Hoboken, New Jersey, man today admitted promoting a voter bribery scheme in two city elections, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Matthew Calicchio, 28, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martini in Newark federal court to an information charging him with using the mails to promote voter bribery from 2013 to 2015 in municipal elections in Hoboken.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court:

In November 2013, Calicchio, Lizaida Camis, Dio Braxton and others – at Frank Raia’s direction – participated in a scheme to pay certain Hoboken voters $50 if those voters applied for and cast mail-in ballots for the November 2013 Hoboken municipal election. Under New Jersey law, registered voters are permitted to cast a ballot by mail. They must complete and submit to their county clerk’s office an Application for Vote by Mail Ballot (VBM Application). The clerk’s office processes the application and sends the applicant a mail-in ballot.

After the mail-in ballots were delivered to the Hoboken voters, Camis and others went to the voters’ residences and, in some cases, instructed the voters to vote for a rent control referendum that Raia supported. Camis and others promised the voters that they would be paid $50 for casting their mail-in ballots and told them that they could pick up their checks after the election at Raia’s office in Hoboken. Raia instructed Calicchio, Camis, and Braxton that if the ballots did not come back open, the voters would not get paid. Braxton, Camis and others then checked the ballots to ensure that the voters had voted for the correct slate of candidates, including for Raia, and that they had voted for the referendum that was favored by Raia. Calicchio and others mailed certain of the completed ballots to the Hudson County Clerk’s Office. After the election, the voters received $50 checks from an entity associated with Raia.

In November 2015, Calicchio and Willie Rojas agreed to pay certain Hoboken voters $50 if those voters applied for and cast mail-in ballots in the November 2015 Hoboken municipal election in favor of a certain candidate for City Council. The candidate told Calicchio that the candidate wanted to win at all costs, and the candidate further indicated that everyone who voted by mail would get paid. Willie Rojas provided voters with VBM Applications, told the voters that they would get paid $50 for casting mail-in ballots, and then delivered the completed VBM Applications to the Hudson County Clerk’s office. After the mail-in ballots were delivered to the voters, Rojas went to the voters’ residences to collect the mail-in ballots. Calicchio and Rojas then checked the ballots to ensure that they had been cast for their candidate, and Calicchio signed an affidavit for each ballot falsely stating that he had assisted the voters in completing their ballots. After the election, the candidate handed Calicchio an envelope with $50 checks, and Calicchio passed the envelope to Rojas, who gave the checks to the voters.

The count to which Calicchio pleaded guilty is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 12, 2019.

Camis previously pleaded guilty to her role in the scheme and is awaiting sentencing. Braxton and Raia were previously indicted and Rojas was previously charged by complaint.

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