A former candidate for the Hoboken City Council, in New Jersey, was convicted Tuesday of conspiring to promote a voter bribery scheme, federal prosecutors announced.
Francis Raia, 67, of Hoboken, a candidate for Hoboken City Council in 2013, was convicted of one count of conspiracy to violate the federal Travel Act for causing the mails to be used in aid of voter bribery, contrary to New Jersey state law, during that election, prosecutors say.
“The defendant, in this case, tried to rig a Hoboken municipal election by voting multiple times, both for himself and for a ballot question that he supported,” U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said. “He did so by deploying his loyal foot soldiers to buy votes from people who he thought were in need of money, and then creating a phony cover story to conceal his tracks.”
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 VBM Application is processed by the County Clerk’s Office, voters receive a mail-in ballot.
According to court documents, from October 2013 through November 2013, Raia instructed other conspirators who worked for his campaign, to pay certain Hoboken voters $50 if they applied for and cast mail-in ballots in the November 2013 Hoboken municipal election. The conspirators provided these voters with VBM Applications and then delivered or mailed the completed VBM Applications to the Hudson County Clerk’s office.
Court documents say that after the mail-in ballots were delivered to the voters, at Raia’s direction, the conspirators went to the voters’ residences and instructed them to vote for Raia and in favor of a ballot referendum that Raia supported that would have loosened rent control restrictions in Hoboken.
The conspirators 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, according to the court documents.
Prosecutors say Raia and his workers checked the ballots to ensure that voters had voted the way that they had instructed them to vote.
Additionally, according to prosecutors, Raia and his workers also had the voters sign declarations falsely stating that they had been paid in exchange for working on the campaign, when in fact the voters had been paid for their vote.
Court documents state that after the election, the voters received $50 checks from a political consulting firm that was paid by Raia’s political action committee. Those $50 checks were never disclosed on Raia’s publicly filed political action committee election reports.
Raia faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Some of his workers and conspirators previously pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing, prosecutors say.
Raia’s sentencing date is unclear.
“The health of our democracy relies on the integrity of our electoral system,” FBI-Newark Special Agent-in-Charge Gregory W. Ehrie said. “When people use corrupt methods to work around that system, it deprives every constituent of their right to be heard through their vote.”