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NJ election fraud: New charges brought against two Democrats over mail-in ballots, registrations

The mail-in ballot election fraud case against Paterson City Council President Alex Mendez has been ongoing for more than three years.

Published: October 28, 2023 11:43pm

Two Democrats in New Jersey are facing new state election fraud charges from 2020 and 2021 related to mail-in ballots and voter registrations. 

State Attorney General Matthew Platkin’s office announced the prosecutions last week involving races that occurred in two different cities. 

One case has been ongoing for more than three years. 

According to the attorney general’s office, Paterson City Council President Alex Mendez (D) is facing additional charges in a 2020 election fraud case, after having previously been charged in June 2020 and February 2021

On Wednesday, Platkin announced that new charges have been brought against Mendez and his associates regarding mail-in ballot election fraud, which occurred during the 2020 election that was mostly conducted by mail. 

Before the May 2020 election, in which Mendez was running for city council, he allegedly collected many mail-in ballots from households over several days in violation of state law, according to the attorney general’s office. While New Jersey law allows a “bearer” to return a completed ballot for a voter, candidates in elections are not allowed to collect and return ballots for the voters in the district of the race they are running in. 

According to Platkin’s office, Mendez’s campaign allegedly collected ballots that were not sealed by voters and examined them at the campaign headquarters to see if they were cast for Mendez. Ballots that were not cast for Mendez were allegedly destroyed and replaced with a ballot for him. The replacement ballots were allegedly stolen from voters’ mailboxes. 

One of Mendez’s associates allegedly took ballots from mailboxes in areas that were known to have many supporters of Mendez’s opponent, the attorney general’s office said. Also, if voters turned over ballots that were incomplete, Mendez’s campaign workers would allegedly complete them. 

About a week before the May 2020 election, Mendez allegedly observed someone empty a large bag filled with ballots into a mailbox in the neighboring municipality of Haledon, according to Platkin’s office. Approximately a week later, Mendez’s campaign attorney sent a letter to the Passaic County Board of Elections to urge them to count the ballots from Haledon, despite allegedly knowing that they had been illegally obtained and submitted to the county. 

Also, following the February 2021 indictment of Mendez, he and others allegedly agreed to try contacting witnesses who were against him and provide them with new statements to help him. 

Mendez has been charged with conspiracy to commit election fraud, a second-degree crime, fraud in casting mail-in vote, unauthorized possession of ballots, tampering with public records, forgery, soliciting or procuring or assisting unlawful registration and other violations of election law, conspiracy to commit witness tampering, all third-degree crimes, and falsifying or tampering with records and conspiracy/tampering with or fabricating physical evidence, both fourth-degree crimes. 

Mendez didn’t respond to a request for comment on Friday. However, Mendez said on Wednesday, “This is unfair. They rushed to charge me four years ago, and when they knew those charges weren’t working and were going nowhere, they charge me with something else.” 

“I’m looking forward to my day in court,” he added. “I’m fighting this to the end.” 

Thomas Eicher, the executive director of the attorney general’s Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA), said in a statement Wednesday: “We allege that Mendez and his associates unlawfully collected ballots and tampered with ballots to give him an unfair edge in the race for the 3rd Ward seat on the Paterson City Council. He then allegedly set about undermining our investigation into his and his campaign workers’ unlawful activities.” 

Charges also were brought Wednesday against another Democratic candidate in New Jersey. 

The state attorney general announced that Dr. Henrilynn Ibezim, who was a candidate for Plainfield mayor in 2021, has been charged with directing his associates to fill out blank voter registration applications and bringing nearly 1,000 of them to a post office. 

Ibezim “has been charged with election fraud and other crimes after allegedly bringing a trash bag stuffed with” 954 fake “voter registration applications to the post office to mail them to the Union County Commissioner of Registration,” according to the attorney general’s office

While Ibezim’s campaign was ultimately unsuccessful, he had allegedly provided campaign volunteers and associates with “one or more forms with voter information on them” that they could use to fill out blank voter registration applications, the AG’s office said. Ibezim also allegedly arrived at a post office “on May 18, 2021, carrying a large white garbage bag” with the voter registration applications, Platkin’s office added

During the investigation by the OPIA’s Corruption Bureau, Ibezim allegedly falsely told detectives that he had been sold fake voter application forms by other people, according to the attorney general’s office. 

In the June 2021 primary, Ibezim was defeated by three other candidates. He also previously ran for mayor in 2017. 

Ibezim has been charged with election fraud, a second-degree crime, criminal attempt to commit false registration or transfer, tampering with public records, forgery, and hindering apprehension or prosecution, all third-degree crimes, and falsifying or tampering with records, a fourth-degree crime. 

Eicher said Ibezim "allegedly resorted to fraud in an alleged attempt to unfairly prevail in this election. This desperate attempt to artificially and illegally inflate support for his candidacy was designed to not only cheat his political opponents out of a victory, but also to cheat the people of Plainfield out of their right to choose their elected officials.” 

Ibezim didn’t respond to a request for comment. 

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