The Bergen County Superintendent of Elections office began investigating allegations of vote tampering that led to criminal charges against Elmwood Park mayor Francisco Caramagna days before the November 2018 general election, the New Jersey Globe has learned.
A letter from Elmwood Park Republican municipal chairman Wallace Nowosielecki that included samples of vote-by-mail certifications and applications that showed similarities with Caramagna’s own handwriting triggered a probe that began on October 31.
The superintendent, Patricia DiCostanzo, hired a handwriting expert as part of a four-month investigation that was completed on February 25. It was referred to the Bergen County prosecutor at the end of February, according to the superintendent’s office.
A statement my acting prosecutor Dennis Calo issued yesterday indicated that the Caramagna probe began earlier this month, after the April 1 filing deadline that left the mayor unopposed in the Democratic primary.
Documents obtained by the New Jersey Globe contradict Calo’s timeline
Election officials first contacted the prosecutor’s office on February 28, and assistant prosecutor Nicholas Ostuni was involved by the following day.
Deputy attorney general George Cohen, who heads the election law group, received copies of documents provided to the prosecutor on March 5. The state attorney general’s office serves as counsel to the Bergen County election officials.
DiCostanzo and deputy superintendent Theresa O’Connor met with the prosecutor’s office on April 8, and a detective requested copies of the 2018 primary and general vote-by-mail applications and certifications three days later.
A spokesperson for the prosecutor’s office has not yet responded to an explanation for the timeline discrepancies.
Last September, John J. Piserchia, an attorney representing the Republican candidates for Elmwood Park borough council notified election officials of “serious concerns regarding alleged improper actions in the handling of Vote-by-Mail applications, voter certifications and completed ballots, during the 2017 elections.”
Sources told the Globe that since election officials were unable to investigate the claim since Piserchia’s letter did not cite any specific examples of voting irregularities.
That changed once the letter form Nowosielecki arrived.Elmwood Park Vote By Mail Applications