Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), today announced the unsealing of an Indictment charging SHALOM LAMM, KENNETH NAKDIMEN, and VOLVY SMILOWITZ, a/k/a “Zev Smilowitz,” with conspiracy to corrupt the electoral process, in connection with an election in Bloomingburg, New York. Bharara also today announced the guilty plea of HAROLD BAIRD, a former Town Supervisor of Mamakating, New York, to conspiracy to submit false voter registrations, charged in a one-count Information unsealed today.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “In pursuit of millions of dollars in profits from a real estate development project, the defendants allegedly hatched a cynical ploy to corrupt the electoral process in Bloomingburg. As alleged, to get public officials supportive of their development project elected to local government, the defendants concocted a scheme to falsely register voters who did not live in Bloomingburg, including some who had never even set foot there. And to cover up their voter fraud scheme, the defendants allegedly back-dated fake leases and even placed toothpaste and toothbrushes in empty apartments to make them appear occupied by the falsely registered voters. Profit-driven corruption of democracy cannot be allowed to stand no matter who does it or where it happens.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. stated: “Today’s charges allege the defendants corruptly advanced their own personal real estate projects in Bloomingburg, New York, at the expense of honest citizens who expect and deserve a fair election system. In their scheme to promote their own real estate development projects, the defendants violated federal law as they schemed to put themselves first. This type of behavior simply won’t be tolerated.”
As alleged in the Indictment unsealed today in White Plains federal court:
SHALOM LAMM, KENNETH NAKDIMEN, and VOLVY SMILOWITZ, a/k/a “Zev Smilowitz,” the defendants, were real estate developers who, starting in or about 2006, sought to build and sell real estate in Bloomingburg, New York. From these real estate development projects, the defendants hoped for and anticipated making hundreds of millions of dollars. But by late 2013, the first of their real estate developments had met local opposition, and still remained under construction and uninhabitable. When met with resistance, rather than seek to advance their real estate development project through legitimate means, the defendants instead decided to corrupt the democratic electoral process in Bloomingburg by falsely registering voters and paying bribes for voters who would help elect public officials favorable to their project.
Specifically, in advance of an election in March 2014 for Mayor of Bloomingburg and other local officials, LAMM, NAKDIMEN, and SMILOWITZ, the defendants, and others working on their behalf, developed and worked on a plan to falsely register numerous people who were not entitled to register and vote in Bloomingburg, because they actually lived elsewhere. People the defendants falsely sought to register to vote in Bloomingburg included those who never intended to live in Bloomingburg, those who had never kept a home in Bloomingburg, and indeed, some who had never even set foot in Bloomingburg in their lives. The defendants took steps to cover up their scheme to register voters who did not actually live in Bloomingburg by, among other things, creating and back-dating false leases and placing items like toothbrushes and toothpaste in unoccupied apartments to make it seem as if the falsely registered voters lived there.
LAMM, NAKDIMEN, and SMILOWITZ, the defendants, also bribed potential voters by offering payments, subsidies, and other items of value to get non-residents of Bloomingburg to unlawfully register and vote there. LAMM, for example, agreed to pay an individual $500 for every voter that the individual procured, and LAMM and NAKDIMEN’s real estate company ultimately paid the individual more than $30,000 per month for his efforts.
As alleged in a separate Information unsealed today in White Plains federal court:
From in or about January 2014 through in or about March 2014, BAIRD conspired with others to submit false voter registrations so that he could run for political office and vote in Bloomingburg. In fact, however, BAIRD did not live in Bloomingburg, and his voter registrations were false.
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LAMM, NAKDIMEN, and SMILOWITZ were arrested this morning and will be arraigned today on the charges in the Indictment before United States Magistrate Judge Judith C. McCarthy in the White Plains federal courthouse.
LAMM, 57, of Bloomingburg, NAKDIMEN, 64, of Monsey, New York, and SMILOWITZ, 28, of Monroe, New York, are each charged with one count of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States, in particular to corrupt the electoral process by submitting false voter registrations, buying voter registrations, and offering bribes for voter registrations and votes. The offense carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
BAIRD, 60, of Sullivan County, New York, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to submit false voter registrations, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The defendant will be sentenced at a future date. The case is assigned to United States District Judge Cathy Seibel.
The statutory maximum penalties are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencings of the defendants would be determined by the judge.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding investigative work of the FBI-Hudson Valley White Collar Crime Task Force, the Sullivan County District Attorney’s Office, the Sullivan County Sherriff’s Office, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the Internal Revenue Service, and the United States Postal Inspection Service. Mr. Bharara also thanked the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section, Election Crimes Branch, for its assistance in the case.
This case is being handled by the Office’s White Plains Division. Assistant United States Attorneys Kathryn Martin, Benjamin Allee, and Perry Carbone are in charge of the prosecution.
The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.