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Mail Carrier Charged After Ballots, Other Mail Found In Dumpsters

Orange, NJ – A U.S. Postal Service (USPS) mail carrier is facing federal charges for allegedly dumping 1,875 pieces of mail into dumpsters in Essex and Bergen counties.

At least 99 of the items the carrier is accused of discarding were general election ballots, according to the criminal complaint.

The mail carrier, identified in court documents as 26-year-old Nicholas Beauchene, has been employed by the USPS since July.

On Oct. 2, a total of 980 pieces of mail slated for delivery in West Orange were discovered inside a dumpster outside of a bank in North Arlington, according to the criminal complaint.

Approximately 98 general election ballots from the Essex County Clerk’s Office were among the items recovered from the trash.

Three days later, another 550 pieces of mail were found in a dumpster in North Arlington, according to the complaint.

There were no ballots among the recovered items found in the North Arlington dumpster, but investigators did locate one ballot among 345 pieces of mail recovered from a dumpster outside a restaurant in West Orange that same day.

The recovered items were all photographed and “placed back in the mail stream for delivery to their intended recipients,” according to the criminal complaint.

Investigators determined that Beauchene was the only mail carrier assigned to deliver the three batches of mail found in the dumpsters.

He has been charged with obstruction of mail and delay of mail and faces a potential fine of $255,000 and five-and-one-half years in prison if he is convicted on both counts, CNN reported.

Resident Howard Dinger told the Associated Press that he didn’t initially realize how much mail he’d actually found when he spotted the trashed items inside one of the dumpsters.

“At first it looked like junk mail circulars and things like that, and then I flipped over a piece and I saw something that said address correction and all that kind of thing,” Dinger explained. “Flip a few more pages I saw the ballots on it, and at that point I knew it was serious.”

He said he reached out to the post office and the police department right away.

“Unbelievable amount of mail,” Dinger told the Associated Press. “And there’s all bundled like for each block. I guess that’s about two to 300 pounds of mail.”

Prosecutors said they do not believe there was a political motive behind Beauchene’s alleged offenses, WPVI reported.

Approximately two weeks earlier, a Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) initial inquiry revealed that staff members at a Pennsylvania elections bureau office “improperly opened” a number of military ballots and threw at least nine of them away.

Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said in a press release late last month that the Luzerne County Administration notified her office at 5:20 p.m. on Sept. 17 about “issues with a small number of mail-in ballots” that had been received by the county’s Bureau of Elections.

Salavantis opened an investigation into the issue and immediately contacted the U.S. State’s Attorney’s office.

U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania David Freed addressed the ongoing investigation in a letter to Luzerne County Bureau of Elections Director Shelby Watchilla.

“While at this point the inquiry remains active, based on the limited amount of time before the general election and the vital public importance of these issues, I will detail the investigators’ initial findings,” Freed wrote.

Freed said that the FBI found multiple ballots that had been “improperly opened” by elections staff, who had then removed the ballots and “discarded, or removed and placed separately from the envelope containing confidential voter information and attestation.”

Investigators found most of the recovered ballots and envelopes outside in a dumpster, he explained.

Seven of the nine military ballots that had been thrown away were no longer inside an envelope when they were recovered, Freed said.

All seven ballots had been cast in favor of President Donald Trump, he noted.

Elections staff had “previously recovered” the other two ballots sand stuffed them back inside what appeared to be their appropriate envelopes, Freed said.

As a result, it is unknown which candidate those two ballots were cast in favor of.

Investigators were able to link one of the seven opened ballots to a specific voter using a recovered separate envelope.

“Six of the ballots were simply removed and discarded, and cannot be attributed to a specific voter at this time,” Freed wrote.

The FBI also located four empty bar-coded absentee ballot envelopes that had been thrown away, according to Freed.

Investigators further determined that the election bureau office has been opening “all or nearly all” of the ballot envelopes they receive, he said.

“It was explained to investigators the envelopes used for official overseas, military, absentee and mail-in ballot requests are so similar, that the staff believed that adhering to the protocol of preserving envelopes unopened would cause them to miss such ballot requests,” Freed noted. “Our interviews further revealed that this issue was a problem in the primary election – therefore a known issue – and that the problem has not been corrected.”

Freed said the ballot envelopes should not have been opened by staff members in the first place.

“As you know, the appropriate method for processing received military ballots is to securely store the ballot, unopened, until such time as ballot pre-canvassing can begin, which is in no event earlier than 7:00 a.m. on Election Day,” the U.S. attorney wrote.

“Opening a military or overseas ballot, or an absentee or mail-in ballot for that matter, violates the controlling statutes and is contrary to Pennsylvania Department of State guidance,” he added.

Freed called the preliminary findings of the investigation “troubling,” and said there was “no guarantee that any of these votes will be counted in the general election.”

The FBI is still combing through other “discarded materials” as the investigation continues, he said.

Freed said it is imperative that the county election bureau correct the problems that have been identified, and that all votes be counted, “regardless of party.”

Luzerne County Chief Solicitor Romilda Crocamo said that the county is cooperating with the federal review and refused to comment further due to the ongoing investigation into the matter, FOX News reported.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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