Paterson politicians, 2 others arrested on voting fraud charges: prosecutors

Paterson
Photo credit New Jersey Office of the Attorney General

PATERSON, N.J. (1010 WINS) -- A Paterson councilman, a councilman-elect and two other New Jersey men have been charged with fraud in connection with a May special election, prosecutors said Thursday. 

First Ward Councilman Michael Jackson, 48, and 3rd Ward Councilman-Elect Alex Mendez, 45, both violated state election laws by approaching voters in their districts and collecting their mail-in ballots, New Jersey’s Office of the Attorney General said Thursday. 

Jackson collected more than three official mail-in ballots from voters, one of which wasn’t filled out or sealed, the Attorney General’s office said. The unsealed ballot was later delivered to the Passaic County Board of Elections “without information identifying the bearer,” according to the office. 

The ballots Mendez collected were also delivered to the BOE "without information identifying the bearer,” prosecutors said. Mendez also “procured or submitted” at least one voter registration application for someone he knew wasn’t eligible to vote in the election district, according to prosecutors. 

Two other men, Shelim Khalique, 51, of Wayne, and Abu Razyen, 21, of Prospect Park were also charged with violating state election laws for collecting mail-in ballots, the Attorney General’s office said. 

Jackson was re-elected to his 1st Ward seat in the May 12 election, and Mendez won the 3rd Ward seat, NorthJersey.com reported. Shelim Khalique is the brother of the 2nd Ward’s Councilman Shahin Khalique, who tied in his race and will be vacating his seat, according to the outlet. 

Razyen worked for Shahin Khalique’s campaign, the outlet reported. 

“Today’s charges send a clear message: if you try to tamper with an election in New Jersey, we will find you and we will hold you accountable,” Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said in a statement. “We will not allow a small number of criminals to undermine the public’s confidence in our democratic process.” 

The Attorney General’s office said it launched a probe into the May 12 election after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service found hundreds of mail-in ballots in a mailbox in Paterson, as well as an unspecified number of ballots in a mailbox in Haledon. 

Jackson and Khalique’s offices didn’t immediately respond to request for comment on the charges Thursday. Mendez and Razyen couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.