Hoboken politico Raia sentenced to 3 months in prison, gets $50k fine for VBM fraud


Hoboken politico Frank Raia was sentenced to 3 months in prison, along with a $50,000 fine, after being convicted of vote-by-mail fraud in connection to the 2013 municipal elections back in June.

Frank Raia (left) sitting with Freddie Frazier at the January 20th, 2016 Hoboken City Council meeting.

By Corey McDonald/Hudson County View

The sentence comes about five months after Raia was first found guilty of conspiracy to violate the federal Travel Act for using the mail for voter bribery. He faced a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The sentencing was originally scheduled for Oct. 3, but had been delayed a handful of times.

“This past year has been by far the worst of my life,” Raia said in a Newark courtroom Monday morning before he was sentenced.

“As I stand before you … I hope that you can see that I am asking for leniency, not as a past politician … but as a loving father and family member.”

Raia, 68, was first indicted by a federal grand jury in October 2018 for overseeing a scheme to pay residents $50 for their votes.

Additionally, he will not have to report for his sentence until after the holidays , March 1st, and he will be subject to one year of supervised release after his sentence is served.

Members of Raia’s inner circle, such as Matt Calicchio, Michael Holmes, and Freddy Frasier, were the government’s key witnesses at trial, all indicating that Raia had been operating the scheme in the 2013 municipal elections.

Another member of his inner circle, Dio Braxton, was also supposed to be sentenced today, but that was adjourned. No new date has been set for his sentencing.

At the time, Raia was a council-at-large candidate and he was also pushing a ballot referendum that would’ve weakened the city’s rent control laws if approved. Neither effort was successful.

Raia’s defense attorney, Alan Zegas, initially asked the judge for leniency due to Raia’s declining health, before mentioning that he had also submitted some 140 letters to the court.

U.S. District Judge William Martini attributed his ruling to the large number of letters sent to the court on Raia’s behalf – the substance of which he at one point called “very extraordinary.”

“I have never seen a submission like this” in my career, he said. The letters “reflect a lifetime of giving and selflessness … You can’t read these letters and not be touched.”

Many family members and friends of Raia were in the Newark courtroom during his sentencing – some of whom addressed the court.

Frank Leanza, an attorney and Raia’s onetime business partner, said that “he has a big heart and cares about everyone.”

Others described instances of Raia going out of his way to help them and others in Hoboken. The judge later read from a letter that described how he adopted two children to give them a home.

“If not for his entire life history, [the] sentence would be much more significant,” Martini said.

“But because it does have to do with the electoral process and the integrity of that process … some form of punishment is still necessary – if for no other reason to deter others who think they can tamper with the electoral process.”

Martini added: “The best I can glean … I think that ambition got him into the situation in which he is now before this court. That’s the only way I can understand how he got into this situation.”


Editor’s note: This story was updated with new information.

Chief News Correspondent John Heinis contributed to this report.

Follow Corey McDonald on Twitter @cwmcdonald_

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  1. The sentence seems fair to me. I agree with the judge that it was important that he serve at least some jail time. I think the lesson has been learned not only by Pupie but by all the other fraudsters who are anxiously praying the next show doesn’t drop.

  2. In true hoboken style Raia didn’t flip and went down with ship whereas Calicchio and Holmes ratted and snitched there way outta trouble. At least Frank will always earn the respect of his peers. Can’t say same for the rats

    • Who are these “peers” who respect criminals for “keeping their mouths shut?”. In my book, taking jail time themselves to save Pupie would have made them stupid suckers not heroes.

      I guess if I were a mob boss (or our President) I might share your view. As a law abiding citizen I see things a bit differently and think Caliccio and Holmes showed some smarts and earned some small amount of redemption for their crimes by taking the stand and telling the truth. I would have more respect for Pupie, not less, if he had done the same.

  3. Really!?! Three months for such corruption!
    How can you ever trust an election again. 140 people sent letters on his behalf. Don’t you think they were asked to do that for a return favor in true Hudson County fashion.
    That guy hasn’t learned his lesson and when he gets out will be back to his same tricks. It is ridiculous and the judge should be ashamed of himself. He should go to jail for 15 and make an example of him. In Hudson County the joke is vote early and vote often. Let’s just give him 3 months.

  4. I guess they couldn’t go back to 2007’s 4th ward election where his absentee ballot shenanigans on behalf of then 4Th Ward Candidate Dawn Zimmer were collected improperly that the judge ordered a trial. Rather than Zimmer and others take the stand and rope in all the innocent ballots, Zimmer and Campos mutually agreed to a new election. Zimmer still won and it was a great day for the 4th Ward, she was by far the best candidate.
    Zimmer also supported Raia for the NHSA and even for Freeholder.
    Like many former Zimmer allies, Dawn threw them under the bike whenever her campaigns and administration goofed up.
    Blaming everyone from 22 day Mayor Cammarano all the way back to Col. Stevens. LOL!!!!

    • They still can go back just two years ago look into when Frank “Pupie” Raia bankrolled First Ward Councilman Michael DeFusco to the of tune $10,000.00 in his failed run to be mayor..

      Dawn Zimmer was the by far better candidate way back in 2007 and had the good sense to separate herself from those few toxic opportunists who tried to ride her coattails, some of which have become very bitter and lash out at every opportunity.

      • Good sense to distance herself? More like she tossed them after using them and getting what she wanted out of the alliance. But, it is true that she did hold up her part of the initial deal. She did write that glowing letter of support for Frank to become the Freeholder. Wonder if that was one of the 140 letters submitted to the judge?

        • It is an interesting historical tidbit to note the small group of ethically challenged hangers on who attached themselves to Zimmer in 2007 in hopes of getting something for themselves.

          Back in the early days Zimmer was a political neophite and pretty naive. She didn’t yet have a good sense of scumbag smell and a small set of scumbags and psychos tried to use that to their advantage. Thankfully she developed her scumbagdar and psychodar pretty quickly and eventually disassociated herself from each of them. In one case, an individual continued pestering her so much for so long after she became mayor that she blocked them on her cell phone.

          Like Raia, each of those people wound up returning to their more natural corrupt political habitat after being tossed off the Island of honest government by Zimmer.

          Ironically, even though these people helped Zimmer for the wrong reasons, they did help her win in 2007 (in an election that close every little bit helps) so Hoboken owes them a debt if gratitude for wittingly or not, ushering in Hoboken’s era of good government