Tuesday, June 25, 2019

FORMER HOBOKEN CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE CONVICTED OF CONSPIRING TO USE MAIL TO PROMOTE VOTER BRIBERY SCHEME

Official release:

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United States AttorneyDistrict of New Jersey


FORMER HOBOKEN CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE CONVICTED OF CONSPIRING TO USE MAIL TO PROMOTE VOTER BRIBERY SCHEME

NEWARK, N.J. – 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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Defense Counsel: Alan Zegas Esq., Summit, New Jersey

BREAKING: One verdict for Frank Raia in his voter bribery trial: GUILTY!





 


Jury declares: Frank "Pupie" Raia guilty of
directing voter bribery scheme


US Department of Justice & FBI smash Old Guard voter fraud operation in Hoboken 

Frank Raia stunned with verdict


Newark Federal Court: Before well over a dozen family, friends, and Hoboken voter fraud critics, Frank "Pupie" Raia was declared guilty of directing a conspiracy in a massive voter bribery scheme today in Hoboken's 2013 election.

The jury delivered its verdict on the second day of deliberations after requesting the testimony to review  four of the five Hoboken voters who testified how they offered their VBM (Vote by Mail ballot) to soldiers of Raia's social club in exchange for $50.

Raia, who held lifelong aspirations to be Hoboken mayor lost that bid in 2009. He returned seeking a pivotal City Council seat in 2013 backing a ballot question limiting rent control losing on both fronts.

He faces up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine at sentencing on October 3rd.

With closing arguments Monday, the US Department of Justice repeatedly referred to the testimony of former friends of Raia as evidence corroborating with five Hoboken voters who also testified to a voter bribery scheme using the mail to perpetrate voter fraud. The references to Matt Calicchio, Michael Holmes and Freddie Frazier were called "consistent" to the allegations in the indictment against Raia.

Defense counsel Alan Zegas undermined the testimony of the three at every turn spending most of his time focusing on Matt Calicchio who he deemed not credible based on contradictions about his interviews with the FBI, grand jury and court testimony. "He's simply not credible," he concluded.

The defense added that Calicchio would benefit in his guilty plea because he wanted the government to write a letter for a reduced sentence in September. Of Holmes and Frazier, he added they both would avoid prosecution based on the government being pleased with their testimony against his client.

"Frank Raia doesn't know who is doing what," Zegas said of the campaign payments. He didn't offer how others funded the payments including over $20,000 paid to Bluewater, used mostly for voter payments of $50 per person.

Asst. US Attorney Rahul Agarwal presented a number of slides with key testimony of the three and highlighted with a slideshow how they were supported by the testimony of five Hoboken voters - all residents of the housing authority.

Referring to Michal Holmes he said, "You heard from Big Holmesy" and an order to get the paid votes, where Holmes said "Frank told us to do it."

Near the end of his closing argument, Agarwal pointed to Raia's wealth saying, "Money might matter out there but it doesn't matter here. What matters here is evidence."

The last word to the jury came from Asst. US Attorney Sean Farrell. He ripped into the defense on the payments to the paid voters saying the money could not have come from underlings of Raia who was, in fact, the underwriter.

"The money came from the defendant's PAC," Farrell indicated which is not contested.

Bluewater Operations became a contentious point as Zegas said Raia testified that it was not his idea to hire the firm to cut checks to voters but 2013 mayoral candidate Tim Occhipinti.

The defense also highlighted Raia did not give credence to his former allies and ignored their testimony as they were "lying about him." Of Matt Calicchio, Raia dismissed his campaign role saying he "worked for Beth Mason."

In the week long trial, the US Department of Justice prosecutors led by Rahul Agarwal and Sean Farrell presented almost a half dozen Hoboken voters out of the Hoboken Housing Authority paid $50 in exchange for turning over mostly unsealed Vote-by-Mail paper ballots to Raia directed underlings.

Key eyewitness testimony featured three Raia allies flipped by the government: Matt Calicchio, Michael Holmes and Freddie Frazier. Collectively, they sealed his fate as they testified to a coordinated voter bribery scheme operation focused on Hoboken's subsidized housing buildings and headquartered out of the Raia social club at 520 Jefferson St.

Also named by the three as participants in the Raia directed voter bribery scheme: Liz "Church Lady" Camis, Dio Braxton, and Ana Cintron.

FBI operations specialist Jacqueline Matthews offered numerical details to the systematic targeting of Hoboken's most vulnerable population last Wednesday. She testified how more than several hundred Hoboken residents received checks for $50 from either the Raia PAC, "Let the People Decide" or Bluewater Operations.

Matthews stated a mere 15 of 378 paid VBM voters did not reside in Hoboken subsidized housing.


Frank "Pupie" Raia pictured here getting bad news on election night in 2013 received more bad news today.
He's declared guilty of leading a massive voter bribery scheme across Hoboken's subsidized housing.
Fellow "One Hoboken" slate underwriter and former councilwoman Beth Mason is pictured rear right.
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Judge William J. Martini who managed the trial proceedings will execute sentencing. He was nominated a US District judge by President George W. Bush and confirmed in 2002. His most high profile corruption case until the Hoboken voter bribery case was for former Newark Mayor Sharpe James.  He sentenced the former Newark mayor to a 27-month prison term for corruption.

Matt Calicchio, a years-long political operative employed by former councilwoman Beth Mason during most of his years of acknowledged illegal activities will face sentencing for his confessed participation in the voter bribery scheme in the 2013 and 2015 Hoboken elections September 12th.

Indications at trial and earlier arrests suggest the Feds are continuing to investigate the Hoboken 2015 election.


The 2013 "One Hoboken" campaign slate that will live in infamy. From left: Council candidate Frank "Pupie" Raia, council candidate Britney Montgomery Cook, underwriter and former councilwoman Beth Mason, mayoral candidate Tim Occhipinti, and council candidate Peter Biancamano. 

Related: The exact same pattern of voter payments and Vote by Mail ballots in Hoboken subsidized housing detailed in testimony on the 2013 Hoboken election by FBI operations specialist Jacqueline Matthews was first reported here in 2010 and the Observer

Similarly, it's been documented in the Hoboken 2015 election: 

FBI arrest threatens extinction level event for Hoboken voter fraud




Jury hears witness testimony reread on day six of the Frank "Raia" Trial

It's day six and the jury heard all the requested witness testimony. Another question submitted requested Judge William Martini go over the charging instructions for the jury.

Judge Martini went through an abreviated charging instruction focused on select portions. He detailed: acting on fact, deciding yourself based on evidence, witness credibility and weighing it individually.

The jury went to lunch at 12:30 and renews efforts on deliberations.