In a federal court in New York this week, a New York man became the third member of a criminal conspiracy to admit to working to rig local elections as part of an effort to develop real estate in the area.
Last year, two New York real estate developers, Kenneth Nakdimen and Shalom Lamm, pleaded guilty to interfering with a mayoral election in Bloomingburg, New York, including using fake voters, to try to advance stalled construction projects.
Now, a third member of the conspiracy has also admitted to taking part in the scheme.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Volvy Smilowitz, a/k/a "Zev Smilowitz," pleaded guilty to conspiracy to corrupt the electoral process.
Smilowitz is listed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office as a “consultant” who worked with Nakdimen and Lamm in the failed development of real estate in the Bloomingburg area.
According to court documents, beginning in 2006, the developers and Smilowitz planned on making “hundreds of millions of dollars” from a number of real estate developments in the area.
But, by 2013, the first of the real estate developments was slowed by local opposition, still remained under construction, and was “uninhabitable,” court documents said.
When faced with that local opposition, Lamm, Nakdimen and Smilowitz chose not to try to advance their real estate development project through “legitimate means.”
Rather, the trio attempted to corrupt the electoral process in Bloomingburg in a March 2014 mayoral election by falsely registering voters and paying bribes to voters who would help elect public officials who were favorable to their project.
Specifically, the trio devised a plan to falsely register people to vote in Bloomingburg despite the fact that the people in question were ineligible to vote in the local election because they did not live in the city.
In fact, some of the “registered voters” had never set foot in Bloomingburg in their lives, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Smilowitz, Lamm and Nakdimen also enacted a scheme to cover up their plans by, among other things, creating and backdating false leases and placing household items in unoccupied apartments to make it appear as though the supposed voters lived there.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Smilowitz and Lamm also bribed potential voters by offering payments, subsidies, and more to get the non-residents to register unlawfully and vote in the city.
In a statement, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman called the scheme the “biggest federal voter fraud case in the modern era,” and said that those who meddle with elections will be held responsible.
“In the biggest federal voter fraud case in the modern era, Volvy Smilowitz admitted to taking part in a cynical scheme to rig an election in Bloomingburg,” Berman said. “There is no place in our democracy for the criminal conduct admitted to by the defendant, which included falsely registering dozens of voters. Those who conspire to corrupt the electoral process must and will be held accountable.”
Smilowitz faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison.