Prospect Park man indicted over Paterson 2020 election fraud case

Abu Razyen, 24, of Prospect Park, N.J. has been charged with fraud in connection with mail-in ballots in the May 12, 2020 special election in the City of Paterson.

The state Attorney General’s Office of Public Integrity & Accountability (OPIA) obtained a state grand jury indictment charging Razyen with third-degree fraud in casting mail-in vote and unauthorized possession of ballots.

Razyen was previously charged with the same offenses by complaint-summons on June 25, 2020.

The Attorney General’s Office issued a press release on March 3, 2021 announcing indictments of Paterson City Councilmen Michael Jackson and Alex Mendez on charges of election fraud and related offenses as a result of an OPIA investigation into the May 12, 2020 special election in Paterson. Those indictments are pending.

A fourth man, Shelim Khalique, 53, of Wayne, N.J., also faces pending voting fraud charges that were filed by complaint and announced on June 25, 2020.

All four men are charged with criminal conduct involving mail-in ballots during the special election.

The investigation by OPIA began when the U.S. Postal Inspection Service alerted the Attorney General’s Office that hundreds of mail-in ballots were found in a mailbox in Paterson. 

Numerous additional ballots were found in a mailbox in nearby Haledon. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all voting in elections in New Jersey on May 12, 2020 was done by mail-in ballots.

Generally speaking, a voter who receives a mail-in ballot completes the ballot themselves and then returns the ballot by mailing it, placing it in a specially designated “drop box,” or delivering it to the County Board of Elections.

However, New Jersey also allows a voter to provide the completed ballot to a “bearer,” who must complete the bearer certification on the ballot envelope in the presence of the voter and then return the ballot on behalf of the voter.

Under state law, a bearer may collect and deliver ballots for no more than three voters in an election if they are not immediate family members residing in the same household as the bearer, and a candidate in the election is never permitted to serve as a bearer.

It is alleged that Razyen violated state election laws by possessing and serving as a messenger or bearer for more than three official mail-in ballots which were not his own and for which he was not identified as an authorized bearer.

Investigators obtained a USB drive containing a video of Razyen holding and flipping through a stack of more than three official mail-in ballot outer envelopes that did not have the bearer portion completed.

Third-degree crimes carry a sentence of three to five years in state prison and fine of up to $15,000. The charges are merely accusations and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

Deputy Attorneys General Eric C. Cohen and Travis Miscia are prosecuting the case for the OPIA Corruption Bureau, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Peter Lee and OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione.

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