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Federal authorities have charged a prominent Atlantic City, N.J., Democratic political operative with conducting an elaborate mail-in ballot scheme even as politicians sought his counsel for his seemingly uncanny ability to sway close elections.
According to a press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey has charged Craig Callaway, 64, on “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.”
“Holding free and fair elections is a bedrock principle of our democracy. 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,” said U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger.
“Voter fraud at any level chips away at the faith people have in our system,” FBI Newark Special Agent in Charge James E. Dennehy added. “We’re unable as American citizens to hold our government accountable if our votes are compromised. The FBI and our law enforcement partners understand the gravity of protecting the process and will bring those criminals who break the law to justice.”
NEW – Former President of City Council of Atlantic City charged with submitting fraudulent mail-in ballots.
A criminal complaint accuses Craig Callaway, 64, a political organizer, of illegally obtaining and casting ballots that were counted in the November 2022 election.
— KanekoaTheGreat (@KanekoaTheGreat) February 7, 2024
According to the Justice Department, roughly a month before the November 8, 2022, general election, Callaway and others under his direction approached numerous individuals in Atlantic City, offering them $30 to $50 to serve as purported authorized messengers for voters who purportedly intended to vote by mail.
Upon receiving Vote-By-Mail Applications from Callaway or his associates, the alleged messengers entered the Atlantic County clerk’s office, each carrying between one and four completed Vote-By-Mail Applications. Following instructions from Callaway or his associates, these individuals presented proof of identification to the county clerk’s office staff and signed the Vote-By-Mail Applications in the authorized messenger section before submitting them to office personnel, the DOJ said.
The supposed messengers remained on-site while office personnel processed the applications. If approved, mail-in ballots were then handed over to the alleged messengers for the voters listed on the applications.
“Under New Jersey law, a messenger is required to deliver any mail-in ballot they received directly to the voter who requested the ballots, and certify that they would do so. However, after receiving mail-in ballots, these purported messengers left the county clerk’s office and instead handed the ballots to Callaway or his subordinates,” the press release continued.
A significant number of mail-in ballots gathered by Callaway or his associates were subsequently cast under the names of individuals who have verified that they did not participate in the 2022 General Election—neither by voting in person nor by submitting a mail-in ballot—and that they did not authorize Callaway, his associates, or any other individual to cast ballots on their behalf. Nevertheless, many of these mail-in ballots were included in the election count, DOJ said.
The offense of procuring, casting, and tabulating fraudulent ballots carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Alternatively, the fine may be set at twice the gain or loss resulting from the offense, whichever amount is greater, DOJ noted.
This isn’t Callaway’s first brush with the law.
Callaway was previously sentenced to 40 months in state prison for bribery during his tenure as a city councilman. While awaiting incarceration for that offense, he orchestrated a sex sting against a political rival, fellow Councilman Eugene Robinson, the Associated Press reported this week.
In 2006, Callaway rented two rooms at a motel on the outskirts of town. A co-defendant placed a camera concealed in a clock radio inside one of the rooms while a video recorder was positioned in the adjacent room.
According to court documents filed by an FBI agent, Callaway and his accomplices paid a prostitute between $150 and $200 to entice Robinson, a Baptist minister, to the motel. Robinson was then coerced into engaging in a sexual act, after which Callaway threatened to disseminate the recording to the media unless he resigned, noted the AP/
Instead of succumbing to the pressure, Robinson reported the incident to the authorities. Subsequently, charges were filed, leading to a three-year state prison sentence for Callaway. Robinson, who has since passed away, maintained that the encounter was consensual and that any money exchanged was intended for purchasing sodas, the AP noted.