A Hoboken woman has been charged with committing vote-by-mail fraud in the 2013 general election, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.
Lizaida Camis, 55, of Hoboken, is charged with a violation of the Travel Act for causing the mails to be used to aid voter bribery contrary to New Jersey state law, Carpenito said in a statement.
Under New Jersey law, registered voters are permitted to cast a ballot by mail rather than in person.
To receive a mail-in ballot, voters must complete and submit to their county clerk’s office an Application for Vote By Mail Ballot (VBM application). After the application is processed, voters receive a mail-in ballot.
From October 2013 through November 2013, Camis agreed to pay certain Hoboken voters $50 each if those voters applied for and cast mail-in ballots for the November 2013 Hoboken municipal election, according to the criminal complaint.
Camis provided these voters with VBM Applications and then delivered the completed applications to the Hudson County Clerk’s office.
After the mail-in ballots were delivered to the voters, Camis allegedly went to their apartments and, in some cases, instructed the voters to vote for the candidates for whom Camis was working.
Camis 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 an office on Jefferson Street in Hoboken, officials said.
Bank records show that voters living in Hoboken received $50 checks from entities associated with the campaigns that employed Camis.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not specifically identify where the checks came from, only stating they were written by “a political action committee.” The criminal complaint further states that at least voters can corroborate the VBM scheme.
Camis faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
In November 2013, then-incumbent Mayor Dawn Zimmer defeated Ruben Ramos, an assemblyman at the time, and Tim Occhipinti, the 4th Ward councilman heading into the race.
Back in 2010, Mayor Ravi Bhalla, then a councilman, filed a lawsuit alleging that 77 out of 79 VBMs delivered by Occhipinti’s council campaign were filled out by residents who were later paid $40 by the campaign to work Election Day, according to The Hudson Reporter.
Speaking on behalf of the Hoboken Fair Housing Association, Cheryl Fallick said that the aftermath of the 2013 rent control ballot question prompted an attorney they were working with to present information to law enforcement.
“HFHA was pleasantly surprised to see tangible action with regard to Hoboken’s ongoing vote-by-mail issues. This problem has plagued Hoboken’s elections for a very long time,” she said in an email.
“The court challenge to the 2013 election victory for tenant protections provided the opportunity, with the help of NJ Appleseed who represented the HFHA, to bring this long-standing problem to light. After the challenge was withdrawn, it is my understanding that Renee Steinhagen, of NJ Appleseed, brought our files and information to the U.S. District Attorney who, we understand, has been investigating since that time.”
She continued that the HFHA anticipates this is the first of several indictment that will come down in connection to voter fraud.
U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Gregory W. Ehrie in Newark, and special agents of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Christina Scaringi, with the investigation leading to today’s arrest.