NEW YORK (JTA) — Federal prosecutors have indicted Shalom Lamm, a prominent Jewish real estate developer, along with two colleagues, for conspiring to commit voter fraud in an upstate New York village in which he had bought land.
Lamm, along with Kenneth Nakdimen and Volvy Smilowitz, were charged with attempting to falsely register non-residents to vote in Bloomingburg ahead of a 2014 election there, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced Thursday. The defendants also bribed voters to vote for politicians who favored the project, according to the statement.
Lamm, the son of former Yeshiva University President Norman Lamm, was planning to build housing units for Hasidic Jews in Bloomingburg, a village of 400 in the Catskills. As he encountered opposition from locals, Lamm and his colleagues allegedly attempted to commit voter fraud to elect politicians who would back the project, according to the statement.
“In pursuit of millions of dollars in profits from a real estate development project, the defendants allegedly hatched a cynical ploy to corrupt the electoral process in Bloomingburg,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said. “As alleged, to get public officials supportive of their development project elected to local government, the defendants concocted a scheme to falsely register voters who did not live in Bloomingburg, including some who had never even set foot there.”
The three men allegedly back-dated leases and put toothbrushes and toothpaste in apartments to make it seem like the falsely registered voters were living there.
A former politician in the nearby Town of Mamakating, Harold Baird, pleaded guilty to submitting false voter registrations so that he could run for office in Bloomingburg, according to the statement.
Controversy has dogged Lamm’s building plans. In October, Bloomingburg and Mamakating agreed to pay Lamm and his company $2.9 million to settle a federal lawsuit alleging that they tried to stop new housing for Hasidic Jews.
The lawsuit, which was filed in September 2014, accused the Sullivan County municipalities of violating federal civil rights and fair housing laws by trying to stop the development of 396 townhouses that cater to Hasidim and marketed to that group. They allegedly also rejected the conversion of a nearby house into a mikvah ritual bath.
Lamm’s attorneys, Larry Krantz and Gordon Mehler, denied the charges in a statement to Haaretz. “Shalom Lamm has been aware of this investigation for almost three years, and is eager to defend himself against this unfounded charge,” a spokesman for the attorneys said. “We intend to fight the charge vigorously at trial.”