An FBI agent testified in Newark U.S. District Federal Court this afternoon that 95 percent of the people paid by two respective 2013 campaigns linked to Frank Raia received vote by mail ballots.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Jacqueline Matthews, a staff operations specialist at the FBI for nine-and-a-half years, testified in front of Judge William J. Martini that 378 of the 398 people paid by either the Let the People Decide super PAC of Blue Operations LLC received a vote by mail ballot in 2013.
Furthermore, only 15 of the 378 that received a VBM ballot did not live in subsidized housing, according to Matthews, who also said that many who received a check from Bluewater never appeared on a report filed with the New Jersey Election Law Enforcement Commission.
While consultants are not required to provide information to ELEC, they are supposed to relay that information to candidates who then file with the campaign finance watchdog agency.
“The consultant is an intermediary and that intermediary is required to provide that information to the campaign,” ELEC Director of Review and Investigation Shreve Marshall, Jr. said during direct examination from Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal.
The government’s focus today seemed clear: to hone in on the fact that low-income residents were being targeted for Raia’s political benefit and the notion that voters were being paid to work was just a “cover story,” as they had alleged on Day 1.
“That’s how we get paid … our vote,” said Marquitha Allen, who testified she voted by mail in 2013, when Raia was running for council-at-large and pushing to loosen the city’s rent control laws via a referendum question.
“I was paid just to vote,” added fellow Hobokenite Tracy Stepherson.
Gloria Diaz, another voter from 2013, testified through a translator that she didn’t speak English and did not know what she was signing when was presented with a VBM form.
Allen, Stepherson and Diaz also both testified that they were paid $50 via check, despite not actually performing any campaign work.
The final so-called Raia “captain” from Raia’s 2013 campaign was Freddie Frazier, a retired corrections officer and carpenter who said he was introduced to Raia in 2007 by Hovie Forman.
Like Michael Holmes, Frazier testified that Raia took him to football games, dinners, and trips, which was why he felt compelled to help his council bid six years ago.
While Frazier said he supported strong rent control laws, since he sat on the city’s rent control board in the ’90s, he indicated it was clear that Raia was the driving force behind Let the People Decide and the rationale was quite simple.
“It would benefit him … It would mean less units rent controlled, he could raise the rents for a lot of them,” Frazier explained.
He also testified that although he filled out paperwork saying he was a part of the PAC, he played no real role in their operation, attributing all of their efforts to Raia and Bayonne political operative Jack Butchko.
Additionally, Frazier stated it was clear to him that the goal of the Raia-led effort was to get out the vote for his One Hoboken team and to vote yes on the rent control referendum.
“Yes [it was a cover story]. Voters received checks the day after the election,” Frazier said on the stand.
Specifically, Frazier said that he routinely drove Liz Camis, who already pleaded guilty to her role in a 2013 VBM scheme, to the post office to drop off VBMs at the post office in Raia’s car.
To that end, Frazier indicated he personally saw Raia reviewing open ballots at his social club at 520 Jefferson St.
“Do you know why he did that?,” Agarwal asked.
“He wanted to make sure people voted the way they were supposed to,” Frazier responded.
However, as has been standard procedure over the past three days, Raia’s defense attorney, Alan Zegas, was quick to attack the witness’ credibility based on contradictory FBI interviews.
According to Zegas, Frazier had spoken with the FBI on January 23rd and November 15th, respectively, in 2018, and was singing a different tune at that time.
“You said the voters were paid because they worked right?,” Zegas inquired. “Yes,” Frazier said calmly.
“People wore t-shirts around town right?,” Zegas continued. “Yes,” Frazier repeated, indicating that some people had fulfilled their obligations with the campaign.
Nevertheless, Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Farrell felt that there was still a perfectly good explanation.
“After retaining counsel, did you do interviews and provide testimony,” he asked on redirect. “Yes,” Frazier said.
“At that time, did you come clean about your role in the voter bribery scheme?” “Yes,” Frazier affirmed.
Like many of the witnesses, Frazier was testifying as part of a cooperation agreement with the government.
The government rested their case around 3 p.m. this afternoon and Raia’s legal team said they’re expecting “two substantive witnesses and 10 character witnesses” to testify before leaving it in the jury’s hands.