Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin today announced that a former candidate for mayor of the City of Plainfield has been criminally charged for allegedly directing a group of associates to complete hundreds of false voter registration applications and then mailing them to Union County election officials.
Dr. Henrilynn Ibezim, 68, of Plainfield, New Jersey, has been charged with election fraud and other crimes after allegedly bringing a trash bag stuffed with nearly 1,000 bogus voter registration applications to the post office to mail them to the Union County Commissioner of Registration.
The charges are a result of an investigation by the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability’s (OPIA) Corruption Bureau.
Platkin alleged that the defendant directed associates and campaign volunteers who gathered at his home to complete blank voter registration applications based off one or more forms with voter information on them, which Ibezim provided to the group.
The investigation revealed that the defendant subsequently arrived at the U.S. Post Office on North Broad Street in Elizabeth on May 18, 2021, carrying a large white garbage bag containing 954 voter registration applications, purportedly from Plainfield voters.
Platkin said the investigation found many of the applications had the same handwriting on them.
Ibezim’s political campaign was ultimately unsuccessful.
During the OPIA investigation, Ibezim gave a recorded statement to detectives in which he falsely claimed that other individuals had sold the false registration applications to him.
“Attempting to tamper with an election result through fraud impairs the ability of legitimate voters to choose their representatives, a cornerstone of American democracy,” said Platkin. “It also undermines the legitimacy of government and the public’s confidence in their elected officials and in elections generally. My office will vigorously pursue these crimes to protect New Jersey’s electorate from being defrauded and to safeguard the integrity of our institutions.”
“The defendant allegedly resorted to fraud in an alleged attempt to unfairly prevail in this election,” said Thomas J. Eicher, Executive Director of OPIA. “This desperate attempt to artificially and illegally inflate support for his candidacy was designed to not only cheat his political opponents out of a victory, but also to cheat the people of Plainfield out of their right to choose their elected officials.”
Registration applications specifically warn that submitting a false or fraudulent registration is unlawful and can carry a fine of up to $15,000, imprisonment up to five years, or both. Doing so also subjects the perpetrator to other criminal penalties.
Ibezim has been brought up on the following charges:
- Election fraud (2nd degree)
- Criminal attempt to commit false registration or transfer (3rd degree)
- Tampering with public records (3rd degree)
- Falsifying or tampering with records (4th degree)
- Forgery (3rd degree)
- Hindering apprehension or prosecution (3rd degree)
Deputy Attorney General Eric Cohen is prosecuting the case for the OPIA Corruption Bureau under the supervision of Bureau Deputy Chief Jeffrey J. Manis, Chief Peter Lee, OPIA Deputy Director Anthony Picione, and OPIA Director Thomas Eicher.
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000.
Third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
Fourth-degree offenses could lead to up to 18 months in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
These charges are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.
Defense counsel: Unknown at this time
Platkin, one of Gov. Phil Murphy’s earliest political advisers and former chief counsel for the administration, was criticized Platkin over his handling of a rape allegation while he served as the governor’s chief counsel.
Platkin was heavily scrutinized for his role in investigating the . Brennan reported the claim to Platkin, who ultimately decided not to tell Murphy. Alvarez, who denies the allegation, stepped down from his six-figure government job after Brennan went public with her allegation.
Republicans also faulted his inexperience and his views on abortion and immigration.
Sen. Holly Schepisi said one of the main reasons she voted against confirming was a legislative report finding Platkin mishandled the 2018 allegation that campaign staffer Al Alvarez had raped Katie Brennan, a former volunteer on the governor’s 2017 campaign and made “sloppy” legal decisions.