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New arrests in 2007 election fraud case shows need to lawyer up early August 4, 2009

Posted by jefhenningeresq in News.
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As I have said in posts about other news stories, large and complex investigations have a way of morphing as time goes by and other defendants flip on existing and unindicted co-defendants.  Those lucky enough to escape the initial arrests should not think that they are out of the woods although I am sure that most will convince themselves that they are. 

I have had great success when clients call me at the first sign of danger.  Of course, you cannot stop others from flipping on your client and thus, there may be little you can do to prevent an indictment in some cases.  However, I am a big proponent of starting trial prep right away as you can never have enough time to prepare for trial, gather information and minimize damage.  Hopefully, these three people already had attorneys and are not surprised by this week’s events.

Press release:

TRENTON – Attorney General Anne Milgram announced that three more people were indicted today for election fraud in connection with absentee ballots they collected and submitted as workers for the 2007 campaign of Teresa Ruiz for the New Jersey Senate in the 29th District. Another campaign worker for Ruiz, Antonio Santana, was previously indicted on March 23 on charges he fraudulently changed votes on absentee ballots during the election.

According to Criminal Justice Director Deborah L. Gramiccioni, a state grand jury returned two indictments today charging three individuals in the ongoing investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the Essex County Prosecutor’s Office.

One indictment charges Gianine Narvaez, 36, of Belleville, a data processing technician for the Essex County Commissioner of Registration and Superintendent of Elections, with official misconduct (2nd degree), election fraud (2nd degree), absentee ballot fraud (3rd degree), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), and forgery (4th degree).

The second indictment charges Angel Colon, 46, of Newark, an employee of the City of Newark Office of Affirmative Action, and Colon’s fiancée, Sorinette Rosario, 31, of Belleville, an employee of the Newark Welfare Department, with election fraud (2nd degree), conspiracy to commit election fraud (2nd degree), absentee ballot fraud (3rd degree), conspiracy to commit absentee ballot fraud (3rd degree), tampering with public records or information (3rd degree), and forgery (4th degree).

According to Director Gramiccioni, Narvaez, Colon and Rosario are charged with tampering with documentation for messenger ballots, which are absentee ballots intended for use by homebound voters. They are charged with fraudulently submitting such ballots as votes in the Nov. 6, 2007 general election.

“We charge that these campaign workers fraudulently submitted absentee ballots on behalf of residents who never received the ballots or had an opportunity to cast their votes,” said Attorney General Milgram. “Election fraud is a serious crime, particularly when voters are disenfranchised.”

Messenger ballots are for use only by those who are homebound due to illness, infirmity or disability. Such persons can complete an application designating a messenger who is a family member or a registered voter in the county. The messenger is thereby authorized to obtain an absentee ballot from the county board of elections, take it to the voter, and return a completed ballot to the county board.

Narvaez, Colon and Rosario allegedly solicited applications for messenger ballots from individuals not qualified to receive them and fraudulently designated themselves as the authorized messengers. They allegedly obtained messenger ballots from the county board of elections, and submitted them to the board of elections as votes on behalf of voters who, in fact, never received or voted the ballots.

“This alleged voter exploitation was brought to our office’s attention by the Essex County Superintendent of Elections,” said Essex County Prosecutor Paula Dow. “Voting is a fundamental privilege that all American citizens have a right to exercise without any form of meddling. The Essex County Prosecutor’s Office will not tolerate any attempt to manipulate elections of any kind.”

“We are continuing our investigation into allegations of fraud in the November 2007 general election in the 29th District,” said Director Gramiccioni. “The Division of Criminal Justice and Essex County Prosecutor’s Office are pursuing all leads concerning tampering with absentee ballots.”

Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $150,000 fine, while third-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Fourth-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 18 months in prison and a $10,000 fine.

The official misconduct charge against Narvaez carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison without parole. The mandatory minimum was established under a law signed by Governor Jon S. Corzine in March 2007 that significantly enhances the punishment of government officials who are convicted of abusing their office and violating the public trust.

The charges remain pending against, Antonio Santana, 58, of Newark. That indictment alleges that Santana changed the votes on three absentee ballots that he collected from members of one family in October 2007. The family members filled in the circles on the ballots in pencil to vote for the three independent candidates. They gave the sealed ballots to Santana, who allegedly changed the votes on each of the ballots to the three Democratic candidates.

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Comments»

1. Jerry - August 4, 2009

all great news for chris christie’s campaign

2. Jerry - August 5, 2009

the press prints that chris christie has never lost a case – successfully prosecuting over 130 public officials…

i’d speculate that these 50 or so newly indicted individuals may not all lose their cases…therefore boosting his reputation…


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