A well-known Democratic political operative from Atlantic City, N.J., has been indicted by federal authorities for orchestrating an intricate mail-in ballot scheme, all while politicians sought his advice due to his remarkable talent for influencing tight elections.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey has charged Craig Callaway 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, approximately one month prior to the general election on November 8, 2022, Callaway and his subordinates approached multiple individuals in Atlantic City. They offered these individuals a sum of $30 to $50 to act as authorized messengers for voters who supposedly intended to vote by mail.
Once Callaway or his associates received the Vote-By-Mail Applications, the alleged messengers went to the Atlantic County clerk’s office. Each messenger carried between one and four completed Vote-By-Mail Applications. Following instructions from Callaway or his associates, these individuals provided proof of identification to the county clerk’s office staff. They also signed the Vote-By-Mail Applications in the designated messenger section before submitting them to the office personnel, as stated by the DOJ.
The individuals posing as messengers remained at the office while the staff processed the applications. If the applications were approved, the 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 considerable number of mail-in ballots collected by Callaway or his associates were later cast using the names of individuals who have confirmed that they did not participate in the 2022 General Election. These individuals neither voted in person nor submitted a mail-in ballot, and they did not give Callaway, his associates, or anyone else permission to cast ballots on their behalf. Despite this, many of these fraudulent mail-in ballots were included in the final election count, as stated by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
The act of procuring, casting, and tabulating fraudulent ballots is a serious offense that carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Alternatively, the fine can be determined as twice the amount of gain or loss resulting from the offense, whichever is greater, according to the DOJ. This is not the first time Callaway has been involved in illegal activities.
Previously, Callaway was sentenced to 40 months in state prison for bribery while serving as a city councilman. During his time awaiting incarceration for that crime, he orchestrated a sex sting operation against a political rival, fellow Councilman Eugene Robinson, as reported by the Associated Press.
In 2006, Callaway rented two rooms at a motel on the outskirts of town. One of his accomplices placed a hidden camera inside a clock radio in one room, while a video recorder was set up 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 lure Robinson, who was a Baptist minister, to the motel. Robinson was then coerced into engaging in a sexual act, after which Callaway threatened to release the recording to the media unless Robinson resigned, as noted by the AP.
Instead of succumbing to the pressure, Robinson reported the incident to the authorities. As a result, 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, according to the AP.