Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla on Frank Raia Verdict: ‘No One is Above the Law’

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla says guilty verdict in the fraud trial of former mayoral and council candidate Frank “Pupie” Raia shows that no one is above the law and can commit voter fraud without facing justice.

Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla had this to stay in the immediate aftermath of a guilty verdict delivered in the fraud trial of former mayoral and council candidate Frank “Pupie” Raia:

“Today’s guilty verdict is an affirmation that no one is above the law, and those that commit voter fraud will be exposed and brought to justice.

“Given the revelations exposed by the trial that additional criminal activity took place in 2015 and other election cycles, further investigation into voter fraud by law enforcement will help ensure that voter fraud is rooted out of Hoboken once and for all,” the mayor added. “It is long past time for a clean break from the corrupt politics of the past.”

For complete coverage of the verdict, please read this piece by John Heinis of The Hudson View.

From the U.S. Attorney’s Office:

A former candidate for the Hoboken City Council was convicted today of conspiring to promote a voter bribery scheme by use of the mail, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito announced.

Francis Raia, 67, of Hoboken, New Jersey, was a candidate for Hoboken City Council in 2013. He 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. The jury deliberated for one day, following a five-day trial before Senior U.S. District Judge William J. Martini in Newark federal court.

“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 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. Fortunately, neither federal law enforcement nor the jury was fooled. Today’s verdict underscores this Office’s continued dedication to uncovering, investigating and prosecuting acts of corruption at every level of New Jersey government.”

“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.”

According to documents filed in this case and the evidence at trial:

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.

From October 2013 through November 2013, Raia instructed Dio Braxton, Matt Calicchio, Lizaida Camis, and other conspirators who worked for his campaign, to pay certain Hoboken voters $50 if those voters 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.

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. Raia and his workers, including Braxton, Calicchio, Camis, and others, checked the ballots to ensure that voters had voted the way that they had instructed them to vote. 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. 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.

Braxton and Camis previously pleaded guilty to their roles in the conspiracy. Braxton is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 10, 2019, and Camis’ sentencing date has yet to be scheduled. Calicchio previously pleaded guilty to violating the federal Travel Act and is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 12, 2019. Raia, Braxton, Calicchio, and Camis each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito credited special agents of the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge 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 verdict.

The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Farrell of the U.S. Attorney’s Office’s Special Prosecutions Division and Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division.

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