TRENTON, NJ – Embattled Paterson City Councilmen Michael Jackson and Alex Mendez have been indicted by a state grand jury on charges of election fraud and other offenses related to the May 12, 2020 special election in the City of Paterson, Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced Wednesday.
Both officials were initially charged by complaint, along with Shelim Khalique, 52, of Wayne and Abu Razyen, 23, of Prospect Park. The original charges filed by complaint against Khalique and Razyen remain pending. All four men are charged with criminal conduct involving mail-in ballots during the election.
Jackson and Mendez were charged by the state grand jury in separate indictments, Jackson on Feb. 17 and Mendez on Feb. 24. They are charged with the following crimes:
Fraud in Casting Mail-In Vote
Unauthorized Possession of Ballots
Tampering With Public Records or Information
Falsifying or Tampering with Records
Mendez is also charged with False Registration or Transfer and Attempted False Registration or Transfer.
“These indictments are an important step in our prosecution of these two sitting city councilmen on charges including second-degree election fraud,” said Attorney General 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.”
The investigation by the Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity & Accountability (OPIA) began when the U.S. Postal Inspection Service alerted the Attorney General’s Office that numerous mail-in ballots were found in a mailbox in Haledon. Hundreds of mail-in ballots were also found in a mailbox in Paterson. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all voting in the May 2020 elections in New Jersey was done by mail-in ballots.
“New Jersey’s criminal code includes various indictable offenses related to election fraud and, in particular, fraud involving mail-in ballots,” said OPIA Director Thomas Eicher. “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.”
Both men face up to 10 years in state prison on the most serious charge.