Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced the filing of criminal charges against Ninoska Adames, 33, of Paterson on Wednesday.
Adames is accused of falsifying a vote-by-mail ballot, misleading investigators about her actions, and providing false information regarding certain mail-in ballots in the May 2020 Paterson municipal election.
Adames has been charged with several offenses, including tampering with public records, fraud in casting a mail-in vote, and more.
According to AG Platkin, the charges stem from her alleged fraudulent completion of a relative's mail-in ballot certificate with a false address, making it appear that the relative was a legitimate voter in Paterson's 3rd Ward, even though they were not.
Furthermore, it is alleged that Adames provided false information to a detective with the Office of Public Integrity and Accountability (OPIA) regarding her own mail-in ballot and a family member's ballot.
These charges are the result of an investigation by OPIA's Corruption Bureau into alleged unlawful conduct by Paterson City Council President Alex Mendez.
The investigation uncovered that Adames completed ballot certificates for two relatives, one of whom had a falsified address. Initially, her relative claimed to have given the ballots directly to Alex Mendez but later changed her statement.
The investigation revealed that the ballots associated with Adames and her family members were among nearly 400 other mail-in ballots allegedly deposited in bulk into a Haledon mailbox by Mendez and his associates.
This action violates state law, as a candidate is not allowed to serve as a ballot bearer on behalf of other voters in the same election district where they are a candidate.
During an interview with OPIA detectives, Adames allegedly claimed to have hand-delivered her mail-in ballot and a family member's ballot to a postal box in either Paterson or Totowa, which was later found to be untrue.
Attorney General Platkin emphasized the seriousness of the case, stating, "The defendant in this case generated a misleading paper trail with the intent of effectively adding a voter to the 3rd Ward. And that voter's ballot, along with others, was picked up for delivery by the eventual election winner in that section of Paterson."
Thomas Eicher, Executive Director of the OPIA, added, "We take the integrity of elections seriously. Candidates need to win elections on their own merits and on the strength of their platforms and political campaigns – not based on deceit and fraud."
Adames has been charged with multiple offenses, including hindering apprehension or prosecution, tampering with public records, falsifying or tampering with records, fraud in casting a mail-in vote, and attempting to cast an illegal vote.
If convicted, Adames could face penalties ranging from three to five years in prison, fines of up to $15,000 for third-degree charges, and up to 18 months in state prison and fines of up to $10,000 for fourth-degree offenses.
It is important to note that these charges are accusations, and Adames is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.