Hoboken political operative Calicchio becomes latest to plead guilty to VBM fraud

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Hoboken political operative Matt Calicchio is the latest individual to become ensnared by the federal probe into vote-by-mail fraud, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Matt Calicchio. Facebook photo.

By John Heinis/Hudson County View

Calicchio, 28, of Hoboken, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Court Judge William J. Martini in Newark federal court this morning to a charge of using the mails to promote voter bribery from 2013 to 2015 in municipal elections in Hoboken.

This makes him the fifth person to be either indicated or plead guilty in connection to vote-by-mail fraud investigations into the 2013 mayoral race and the 2015 ward council races.

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, authorities said.

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, according to court documents.

As HCV previously reported, Raia was the chairman of the political action committee Let the People Decide, a PAC that sought to loosen the city’s rent control laws via a referendum question.

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, officials said.

Raia then 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, who is not identified, 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, authorities said.

According to the criminal complaint, two candidates benefitted from the VBM scheme, but few identifiers are provided: candidate 1 was said to have Calicchio and Rojas working for them, while candidate 2 is only described as the chair of their own election committee.

Rojas then 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.

Meanwhile, Braxton and Raia were previously indicted and Rojas was previously charged by complaint.

Raia, a longtime Hoboken political, perennial candidate for office and former chair of the North Hudson Sewerage Authority, was indicted with Braxton on Halloween.

He has pleaded not guilty, and through his attorney, asked for the list of federal informants pertaining to the case back in February.

As of this writing, their trial is scheduled to begin on June 11th.

In a statement, Mayor Ravi Bhalla called the whole situation “shameful” and for anyone involved to “be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

“The cash for votes scheme as outlined by the U.S. Attorney’s office is an unfortunate reminder that corruption and dark special interests still play an outsized role in our municipal elections,” Bhalla said.

“It’s shameful that candidates for public office have been accused of bribing voters, and if true, they should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. I commend all law enforcement personnel for their continued efforts at holding corrupt candidates and elected officials in Hoboken accountable for any and all crimes that were committed.”

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a comment from Mayor Ravi Bhalla. 

39 COMMENTS

      • No, she didn’t run but Matt Calicchio was her operative doing evil deeds for years. He’s admitted to it!

        Or do you want to say he only worked for the Mason Civic League ‘art gallery.’

        HAHAHAHAHA!

      • Hoboken’s Beth Mason was underwriting that City Council slate the FBI references in their release today. It was all her and Pupie in 2013 for The Slate!

        Matt admitted to aiding & abetting vote buying bribery schemes in both 2013 and 2015.

    • Two things we know for sure:
      1) Matty worked for Beth Mason through most if not all of this.
      2) Ravi Bhalla won’t be trying to twist arms for votes to put Pupie Raia back on to the Sewerage Authority ever again.

  1. An operation called “Let the People Decide” that seeks to let the guy with the most money decide by paying people who need rent control to vote against rent control.

    There just aren’t too many places quite like Hoboken. Who needs reality tv?

  2. I’m not sure why anybody would try to make this about Beth Mason, who wasn’t on the ballot in either 2013 or 2015 and therefore obviously isn’t “candidate 1” or “candidate 2.”

    The charge makes clear that Callicio and Rojas worked for and on behalf of “candidate 2” not Mason.

    Why is the poster here trying to distract attention from “candidate 2” with nonsense about Mason. That’s certainly not what anybody truly interested in stopping corruption would be doing, especially if candidate 2 is still in office and politically aligned with the poster’s “team” as seems possible.

    • So Lindastan, you’re “not sure” even though your wife Dawn Zimmer led the featured incumbent slate in the 2013 mayoral race. The late third entry, The Slate, divided the Old Guard vote and was sponsored by none other than Pupie Raia and Beth Mason. That One Hoboken slate is forever tied to voter fraud.

      But according to you, that’s a distraction!

      In that 2013 election, Beth Mason even created a TV cable show adding to tons of media ad buys in the local newspaper. Pupie and Mason divided the vote making it a clean lane for Dawn Zimmer taking 47% of the vote.

      You’re “not sure” and think to stop corruption means only looking through a narrow lens, not BOTH the 2013 and 2015 election. Why do you insist to highlight only one of the two Hoboken elections cited by the FBI and not the people underwriting the campaigns featuring voter fraud over multiple election cycles?

      Based on your odd sleight of hand here; you’ll certainly raise eyebrows pointing at your own “Lindastan” reflection. You’ve made a believer of me. Now I think you cut a deal with Pupie in 2013! SMH, that’s not the Lindastan we used to know. Or maybe some of us were wrong. Sad!

      • Blimey! Forgot all about how Dawn Zimmer started her career in politics by hitching her wagon to the VBM king. Pupie, please, please do tell. Does our one and only original reform leader owe her entire political career to you?

      • LS isn’t throwing any bouquets to Beth. She’s saying Beth left the stage. Ruben and others are still on the stage. Tiffy and Jenny are stuck with him in their “coalition” and on their smartphones.

        Good lecture though…………..

        • See, we knew that Ravi garbage wouldn’t take long to surface. Shoot, didn’t someone already predict exactly that? Working on a nine-member council getting things done like reducing Ravi Bhalla’s tax hikes is now an official “coalition.”

          Does that mean Dawn Zimmer and Pupie had a real coalition going back to 2007? Or can we expect Ravi Bhalla’s overpaid staff to go with this stupidity instead of “you’re racist” in November? Gosh, they sure are impressive. Not.

          • Lane Jr has his hands full being Beth Jr’s attack dog and praying his other hero fends off all those congressional subpoenas. Beth Jr needs Ramos and Defusco. That’s why Lane Jr NEVER talks about their little habits. That is about to end. Same goes for ignoring subpoenas. Poor Lane Jr. Not much to look forward to.

        • All you have is lies and a lousy false idol in the mayor’s office who just got caught trying to backstab the Assemblywoman.

          The only coalition is Ravi and Russo, best buds who trotted out Antuny, King of Hoboken corruption right back into the mayor’s office at City Hall as his first order of business.

          Holy shite, you Ravi loons suck.

          • your qb is definitely toast. he will be impeached. we look forward to your deep state explanations.

    • Hey Sham,
      You are right, if anyone should know a thing or two about the negative side effects of learning how to campaign with Frank Raia it’s you and your wife.
      Now that you left your old “beloved” southwest neighborhood, you boy Ravi has clearance to dump density on the backs of Ramos’s ward. So much for loving Hoboken.

      Memories…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUqkH_2AgmE

  3. Article doesn’t specify is candidate 1 or 2 were elected. So here’s a little public service announcement. The mayor and his well-overpaid mayor’s office cronies must be disappointed that their 2 fav. punching bags, Tiffanie and Jen, have never been seen anywhere near Callicio, so even though I’ve included them on the list, they’re unquestionable not in contention. Likewise for Dana Wefer. Anyone up for placing bets? Who’s goin’ down or who’s wired up? List of 2015 Ward Candidates:

    Terry Castallano
    Michael DeFusco
    Bonnie Murray
    Peter Biancamano
    Tiffanie Fisher
    Michael Russo
    Ruben Ramos
    Dana Wefer
    Timothy Occhipinti
    Peter Cunningham
    Eduardo Gonzalez
    Jennifer Giattino
    Carmelo Garcia

  4. It’s really sad when real issues of public corruption are conflated with the wishful thinking and obsessions of people like the poster here with the Mason obsession. The charging document makes clear that the 2013 fraud was directed by Raia – Mason is guilty of many things and was a toxic force who caused much damage to the City, but the 2013 charge doesn’t seem to have anything to do with her even though she supported the ticket that benefitted.

    It’s documented in the ELEC filings that payments to “workers” in the 4th and 5th wards for the Ramos ticket were run through Mike Russo’s committee, so it’s not much of a leap to identify Mike as “candidate 1” and to identify Ruben Ramos or Eduardo Gonzales – the 4th and 5th ward candidates whose “workers” were paid by Russo, as likely choices for “candidate 2.”

    Keep blathering on about Beth Mason. Reality is sometimes hard to swallow, but if and when the next shoe drops some councilmembers might be scrambling to distance themselves from “candidate 2.” Fortunately, like with Mason, being politically allied with someone who turns out to be a criminal isn’t a crime, though it’s certainly not something to be proud of, and it does raise the question as to whether those allied with the criminal ought to have known what they were getting in bed with

    • Matt Calicchio worked full-time for Beth Mason for years and likely, the entirety of the time involved in the 2013 and 2015 elections. He was a VBM contractor with Raia but the Mason-Raia axis underwriting that Old Guard 2013 slate, “The Slate” as the FBI says is connected to the voter fraud bribery scheme and is not subject to shadowy speculation.

      You’re all wet Lindastan. You can speculate on 2015 but 2013 is “booked.” Forget your speculative council hopes and dreams for a moment and tell us about the plans for this November with another rendition of Ravi Terror Flier 2. Scummy and yes, sad.

  5. LL what are your thoughts on Ravi’s political alignment with Russo? Candidate 1 in your scenario. And no, the answer can’t be that it doesn’t exist.

    Ravi is no Dawn who made an early mistake with Pupie and never went back. Where Dawn restored integrity to the office of the mayor, Ravi chewed it up and spit it back out. Thank you for giving him to Hoboken. Ravi will somehow try to re-claim the reform title in all this but he doesn’t have a reform bone in his body.

  6. If “candidate 2” does turn out to be 4th Ward Councilman Ramos, will DeFusco take the opportunity to stab Ramos in the back now or wait to see if he can get reelected in the 1st Ward. It will happen just a matter of timing.

    • DeFusco needs a strong unified DeFusco HHA vote in 2021, so thowing Ramos under the bus will be a bit problematic for him given Ramos’s popularity there. I expect the Councilman will choose his words carefully if and when the time comes for him to have to say something, while his online shill (and former Ramos campaign manager) keeps re-posting a dumb 2007 video showing Raia and Zimmer together in an elevator to try to distract attention.

      Fisher, Cunningham, and Giattino on the other hand will waste little time throwing Ruben under the bus, trying to pretend their 1 1/2 year alliance with Ramos never happened, while their online shill prattles on about Ravi/Russo and obsesses about Beth Mason.

      But frankly, none of that matters. Nothing much will change if the movie ends here, but if candidates 1 and/or 2 are charged, Hoboken will enter a new era in which votes will have to be earned rather than bought, with new leadership developing for Hoboken’s neediest residents, hopefully focused on their needs rather than the needs of the development community.

      And that is a result all true believers in honest government will be thankful for.

    • Candidate 2 is not Ruben Ramos. Pupie had a candidate in the fourth ward in 2015, same as in 2010. You badly medicated Ravibot lunatics are so dumb.

      • You’re right. Candidate 2 is not Ruben Ramos. Ruben Ramos is Candidate 1. Why all the name calling? Makes you sound unintelligent.

        • You are correct – I flipped candidates 1 and 2. My bad. Ruben appears likely to be candidate 1 and Russo fits the description of candidate 2 like a glove.

          Mr. “Back to the cave” is entitled to his opinion, of course. Perhaps it’s just a coincidence that Councilman Russo paid $50 each to 4th and 5th ward council”workers” who voted by VBM and the feds described a scheme exactly like that. And perhaps the feds failure to charge Mr. Raia with anything having to do with 2015 or to mention him in their discussion of the 2015 Callicio charge was just an accidental omission, not a sign that Mr. Raia had nothing to do with the 2015 crime.

          The truth will be known soon enough and our guesses won’t change the ultimate reality.

          I hope we can agree that all of those involved in this nefarious scheme should be held accountable. Let’s get the truth out and let the chips fall where they may.

          • We can agree your 100% wrong on your allegation and the unbalanced Ravibot you feed poison, this time about Ruben Ramos. That you push the idea Raia is paid to get votes for Ramos is laughable.

            A senior in the north end of town was not messengering payments to the other end of town.

            Stick with Ravi Terror Flier 2 this November. You guys are much better at that dirty ruse. You guilt-tripped Hoboken voters but good.

    • @oy vey I assume your dead link was supposed to be to the powerful video made by Chris Campos’s campaign in 2007 showing Dawn Zimmer in an elevator with Frank Raia?

      Since Dawn Zimmer became 4th ward Council Person and then Mayor and Mr. Campos is in Federal prison, it doesn’t seem like the video was particularly effective, but maybe if you post it one more time it will turn from pathetic sh*t to gold!

      If “candidate 1” is sent to the same prison as Chris maybe he and Chris can watch the video together during movie nights.

  7. There seems to be some confusion, so at the risk of beating a dead horse let me explain the charging document for those who either haven’t read it, or who are having trouble understanding it due either to reading comprehension issues or a general inability to think clearly.

    Mr. Caliccio has pleaded guilty to two separate schemes – one in 2013 and one in 2015, involving entirely different casts of supporting characters.

    According to the plea, in 2013, Mr. Callicio acted at the direction of Frank Raia, to fraudulently pay for VBM’s to obtain votes in favor of a rent control referendum and for Mr. Raia and his political slate (Raia was running for City Council as part of a slate headed by Mayoral candidate Tim Occhipinti supported by among others, then Councilwoman Beth Mason).

    In 2015, according to both the plea and the indictment of Mr. Raia, Mr. Raia does not appear to have been involved at all. Rather, Mr. Calliccio acted at the direction of a city council candidate identified only as “candidate 1” and he paid voters with checks drawn from the account of another council candidate identified only as “candidate 2.”

    The only Council candidate in 2015 who paid “worker/voters” in wards other than his own was Councilman Russo. Councilman Russo ran on a ticket with Ruben Ramos, and most of the “worker/voters’ paid by Councilman Russo were 4th ward, ie ticketmate Ramos voters. It strains credulity to believe that Russo would be funding a candidate opposing his own ticketmate, so Councilman Russo was almost certainly paying Councilman Ramos’s “worker/voters.” This means Councilmen Ramos and Rusdo fit the Feds descriptions of “Councilmen 1 and 2” like a glove.

    If the glove is a fit, the Russo and Ramos are it!

    It’s understandable that political players would prefer that the unnamed perps here be people politically allied with their enemies rather than the people they themselves have jumped into bed with.

    But those who are not doofuses would be well advised to consider the facts objectively and make their decisions soberly and wisely, rather than digging themselves a deeper hole.

    • No one goes to that dead cave website. No one sane anyway. She’s as dirty and nasty a fabricator as the voter fraud people. No one cares about her Ravi paid political operative coverups.

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