ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — A former Atlantic City councilman who went to prison for bribery and a sex blackmail case is facing charges again.
Craig Callaway, 64, is a sought-after political organizer and operative in and around Atlantic City, known for his ability to deliver large blocks of absentee ballots to election officials that often sway the outcome of elections. But he was arrested Thursday and charged with election fraud involving the misuse of absentee ballots — something of which his political foes had long accused him.
The U.S. Attorney's Office said Callaway is charged with 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,” said U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger. "Today’s charges reflect our office’s commitment to hold to account those who try to undermine the electoral process.”
Reached by phone, Callaway's attorney, Megan Davies, said she was entering the courtroom and could not immediately comment Thursday. A message sent to Callaway's phone was not immediately returned.
Prosecutors said Callaway and others working at his direction paid people $30 to $50 to apply to be messengers for voters purportedly wishing to vote by mail.
They went to the county clerk's office, signed the messenger portion of the ballot applications and received ballots to be given to the voters listed on the applications.
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, according to the U.S. Attorney's office.
Many of the mail-in ballots collected by Callaway or his subordinates were ultimately cast in the names of people who have confirmed that they did not vote in the 2022 general election – either in person or by mail, the office said. These voters also said they did not authorize Callaway, his subordinates, or anyone else, to cast ballots for them. Many of these mail-in ballots were counted in the election.
Callaway previously was sentenced to 40 months in state prison for bribery while a city councilman. While waiting to report to prison for that offense, he orchestrated a sex sting against a political rival, fellow Councilman Eugene Robinson.
In 2006, he rented two rooms at a motel on the edge of town. A co-defendant placed a camera hidden in a clock radio inside one of the rooms and a video recorder was set up in the adjacent room.
An FBI agent said in court documents that Callaway and others paid a prostitute between $150 and $200 to lure Robinson, a Baptist minister, to the motel and perform a sex act on him, then threatened to send the tape to the media if Robinson did not resign.
Instead, Robinson went to the authorities, who filed charges that led to a three-year state prison term for Callaway. Robinson, who has since died, said the sex was consensual and that money he gave the woman was to buy sodas.
Callaway was released in 2010 and quickly resumed his operation collecting and delivering absentee ballots. While campaigns of losing candidates had long accused him of wrongdoing, Callaway was not charged until Thursday.
The election fraud charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
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