Rigo Rodriguez, his wife Lissette, and a campaign worker have been indicted on charges of election fraud and witness tampering on Thursday, announced the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.
Seven separate charges have been levied against Rodriguez, councilman at-large, and his wife: conspiracy, election fraud, mail-in ballot fraud, tampering with public records or information, falsifying records, forgery, and witness tampering.
Wilson A. Torres, 32, a city resident, and a campaign worker during Rodriguez 2010 election, has also been formally charged on the same charges.
During the 2010 municipal election, Rodriguez, 41-year-old, and his wife, Lissette Rodriguez, 34, “allegedly conspired to have campaign workers illegally act as “messengers” and “bearers” for vote-by-mail applications and mail-in ballots when they had not been designated by voters to act in those roles,” according to the office.
“Rigo Rodriguez took an oath as a city councilman to uphold the law, but we allege that he betrayed his oath and the public’s trust in his effort to retain his council seat,” said Elie Honig, head of the Division of Criminal Justice. “It is deeply troubling that a city official would deliberately interfere with a state investigation and counsel witnesses to lie, as we allege.”
Torres, according to the charges, filed out absentee ballots for voters without their consent, and had them submitted to the board of election. “In connection with the scheme, campaign volunteers allegedly would ask voters to complete the vote-by-mail applications but leave the messenger line blank, and the volunteers would then take the applications back to campaign headquarters,” according to authorities. Torres remains on the run. A source has indicated that Torres fled the country for his native Dominican Republic.
The ballots would then be taken to Rodriguez’s campaign office, where campaign workers filled in the blanks without voter’s knowledge.
Once authorities sniffed out what was taking place at the councilman’s headquarters an investigation was launched. Rodriguez learned of the investigation, and trained campaign volunteers on how to answer certain questions asked by authorities. “Once Rigo and Lissette Rodriguez learned of an investigation by the New Jersey State Police and the Division of Criminal Justice into alleged ballot fraud, they allegedly spoke to campaign volunteers and voters about how to answer questions from detectives,” according to the office. “They allegedly advised the campaign workers and voters to provide false information to the State Police.”
If found guilty on these charges all three are likely to face 10-years in state prison and fine of $150,000.