A state grand jury has indicted two sitting council members for election fraud and other offenses stemming from the May 12, 2020 municipal elections, announced New Jersey Attorney general Gurbir Grewal on Wednesday afternoon.
Alex Mendez, 45, and Michael Jackson, 49, were each indicted on election fraud, fraud in casting mail-in vote, unauthorized possession of ballots, tampering with public records or information, and falsifying or tampering with records.
Mendez is also charged with false registration or transfer and attempted false registration or transfer. Both men were charged by complaint-summons in June 2020.
Mendez (left) Jackson (right) have denied the charges.
The Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity & Accountability opened an investigation after the U.S. Postal Inspection Service alerted them that hundreds of mail-in ballots were found in a mailbox in Haledon. Hundreds more mail-in ballots were found in a mailbox in Paterson in the all vote-by-mail election.
“These indictments are an important step in our prosecution of these two sitting city councilmen on charges including second-degree election fraud,” said Grewal. “As we have seen all too clearly in recent months, public confidence in our democratic process is critical. If anyone tampers with an election in New Jersey and threatens that process, we will hold them accountable.”
Jackson could face a maximum of more than 26 years in state prison if convicted; Mendez could face a maximum of more than 36 years in prison if convicted.
Besides Jackson and Mendez, two members of councilman Shahin Khalique’s campaign, including his brother, Shelim Khalique, were charged for allegedly committing similar election offenses.
“New Jersey’s criminal code includes various indictable offenses related to election fraud and, in particular, fraud involving mail-in ballots,” said Thomas Eicher, director of the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity & Accountability. “With these indictments, we’re using those laws for their intended purpose— defending free and fair elections by prosecuting those accused of seeking to undermine them.”
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