New Jersey Political Operative Charged with Mail Ballot fraud

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(Christian Wade, The Center Square) — Federal prosecutors have charged a New Jersey political operative with a mail-in voter fraud scheme that involved paying “messengers” to cast ballots in the names of people whom they never met.

Former Atlantic City council president Craig Callaway was arrested Thursday and charged with “procuring, casting and tabulating fraudulent mail-in ballots” in the November 2022 general election, according to U.S. Attorney for New Jersey Philip R. Sellinger’s office.

“Holding free and fair elections is a bedrock principle of our democracy,” Sellinger said in a statement. “As alleged in the complaint, the defendant attempted to deprive New Jersey residents of a fair election by fraudulently procuring and casting ballots. Today’s charges reflect our office’s commitment to hold to account those who try to undermine the electoral process.”

Federal prosecutors allege that Callaway and others paid Atlantic City residents between $30 and $50 to act as “messengers,” request mail-in ballots for voters, and cast ballots in their names with their knowledge.

Under New Jersey law, a so-called messenger is authorized to deliver mail-in ballots received directly to the voter who requested the ballot.

Investigators say the scheme started shortly after Callaway’s consulting firm, GOYV LLC, was paid $65,500 for strategic consulting by Republican Congressman Jeff Van Drew’s 2022 reelection campaign.

“Voter fraud at any level chips away at the faith people have in our system,” James E. Dennehy, the FBI’s Newark Special Agent in Charge, said in a statement. “We’re unable as American citizens to hold our government accountable if our votes are compromised.”

Van Drew’s campaign issued a statement denying involvement with the scheme and saying it “never would condone any illegal activity.”

“In fact, as is always the case with our vendors, the campaign had a signed consulting contract. Mr. Callaway signed the contract for that election and previous elections, specifically stating that as an independent contractor, he ‘agrees all work and services provided shall adhere to all federal, state, and local laws and regulations,” the statement said.

Callaway, 64, had previously served time for a federal bribery conviction. In 2006, he admitted accepting $36,000 in bribes from an Atlantic City contractor. In 2008, Callaway admitted to a blackmail scheme targeting an Atlantic City councilman while he was serving a sentence for a bribery conviction. He has worked mostly with Democratic candidates over the years.

The allegations echo concerns raised by former President Donald Trump — the frontrunner in the race for the GOP nomination — about allowing ballots to be cast by mail. Trump has argued that fraudulent mail balloting helped cost him the 2020 presidential election.

Callaway was charged with one count of “depriving, defrauding, and attempting to deprive and defraud the residents of the state of New Jersey of a fair and impartially conducted election process by the fraudulent procurement, casting, and tabulation of ballots.”

He faces up to five years imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release if convicted, prosecutors said.

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