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Friday, December 09, 2022

The Catskills accused of voter fraud. Rock in the ‘Borsch Belt’ resort

The small Borst Belt town, which attracts Orthodox Jewish tourists over the summer, staged a crucial election this spring that was anything but kosher, according to an explosive lawsuit that implied the state in alleged voter fraud. investigation was started.

The Fleischmanns – a leafy village at the foot of Belleayre ski resort in the Catskills – is thrown into chaos after two losing candidates for village trustee, officials on a pair of deep-pocketed Hasidic property owners set the ballot box to rubber. Accused of misappropriating – stamp their development plans, according to a lawsuit obtained by The Post.

The tree-lined Main Street and businesses with its 300-year-old locals are taking sides in an election held in March for two of the four trustee seats – a year after the other two seats were won by candidates supported by the same Hasidic residents. , Joseph Horowitz and Vigdor Mendlovich.

Voters in the historic village named after the Fleischmann family who built the baking yeast empire are insulting and accusing each other of bullying, anti-Semitism and fraud at public meetings, most recently for future use of municipal facilities. But with some trepidation. Renovated Town Pool.

‘I believe the ultimate game is to turn it into a religious community where [Hasidic] Lifestyle prevails,” Vicky Szerko, who owns a second home in Fleischmans, told The Post.

Fleshman'S Sign
Fleischmanns – a village at the foot of Belleayre ski resort in the Catskills – has been thrown into turmoil.
Daniel William McKnight for the NY Post

In the election held on 15 March for two seats on the village’s four-seat Board of Trustees, Yasmin Serabiya and Aaron Goldring won with 135 votes and 123 votes respectively. His rivals, Elizabeth Hughes and Dan Halpern, secured 54 and 39 votes, respectively.

However, both winners received 120 votes by absentee ballots. This is versus the previous elections which have been won with only 30 votes in total. The number of registered voters on 1 February was 201. According to Hughes, it rose to 268 after just five weeks.

Hughes and Halpern filed a lawsuit a few days later, claiming that the votes were at the behest of Horowitz and Mendlovich, who own large amounts of property in Fleischman to Hasidic tenants. The two recruited summer renters from New Jersey and New York City to vote illegally via absentee ballots, listing vacant motel rooms as their primary residence, among other impossible addresses, the suit claims. .

A Pavilion Next To Fleischman'S Sign.
Allegations of voter fraud are fueling this village.
Daniel William McKnight for the NY Post

“We think we’ve uncovered voter fraud,” said Hughes, who moved to Fleischman from Brooklyn during the pandemic. “In such a small community, it’s obvious.”

“The whole thing is so clear with absentee ballots,” said Halpern, who notes that the winning candidates never campaigned or offered any public explanation as to why they became candidates.

“The only evangelists were Elizabeth and I,” Halpern said. “We went from door to door, put up posters in the village, put up advertisements in the newspapers and sent mails.”

Goldring himself lives in Lakewood, NJ, where he is registered to vote. The lawsuit claims he also wrote “NJ,” where the ballot application asked for information about his residence. But he also provided the address of a Fleischman — “a motel-like structure” that, according to the suit, Used seasonally for a few weeks in the summer by the Hasidic community.

Elizabeth Hughes Holds Up A Campaign Poster.
Elizabeth Hughes says she lost the March election for village trustee because of the preponderance of illegal absentee ballots.
Daniel William McKnight for the NY Post

Goldering did not respond to multiple emails and phone calls seeking comment.

Sarabia lives in Fleischmans and works at a local convenience store owned by another Mendlovitch-backed trustee – Sam Gill – who was elected trustee in March 2021 along with Stewart Cohen. Sarabia also did not return calls for comment.

The trustees’ attorney, James Curran, filed a motion for summary judgment on May 16, arguing that the petition failed to meet certain deadlines. He also argued that many people have more than one property or residence in New York and that there is nothing “inherently dishonest or questionable” about this practice, noting that the law allows people to choose. from where they vote.

The lawsuit filed by Hughes and Halpern in March at the New York Supreme Court in Delaware County names their rival candidates, the county board of elections and village clerk, alleging that a “religious sect” is trying to “Taking Control of the Village” by Fraudulent Fleischmann’s Government.”

Fleischmann In 1925.
Fleischmanns in 1925. The resort town, which is named after the family that created the baking yeast kingdom under the same name, has its roots in the 19th century.
Getty Images

In an interview with The Post, Mendlovic called the lawsuit “baloney” and said there was no “organized” effort to recruit voters. “They’re making up stories,” he said.

Horowitz declined to comment for this story.

Fleischmann’s mayor, Winifred Zubin, also declined to weigh in on the controversy.

“I am trying to protect the integrity of the village election,” Zubin told The Post. [election],

This won’t be the first upstate hamlet to face voter fraud. In 2016, the FBI arrested three men in Bloomingburg, NY, who were later found guilty and jailed in Sullivan County for trying to corrupt a local election by bribing non-residents to register and vote. gave. He had plans through a townhouse development to accommodate Hasidic families.

Valkyrian Motel.
At least two voters who presented absentee ballots for the local election listed the Valkyrian Motel as their residence.
Daniel William McKnight for the NY Post

Three men — including former Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara — Shalom Lam, Kenneth Nakdimen and Wolvie Smilowitz — hatched a plan to “falsely register voters who didn’t live in Bloomingburg, including some who’ve never even stepped foot. Didn’t keep it.” said in a statement disclosing the indictment at the time.

Bharara further said that the trio “allegedly left behind the date of fake leases and even kept toothpaste and toothbrushes in empty apartments so that they could be occupied by falsely registered voters.”

In the Fleischmans case, the suit alleges that four voters listed vacant motel rooms as their primary residences. It also claims that 24 voters have listed the same tax-exempt religious property as their primary residence.

A House At 556 Main St. In Fleischmanns, Ny.
Sixteen voters who presented absentee ballots listed this house in Fleischmann as their residence.
Daniel William McKnight for the NY Post

The lawsuit states that the “modest single-family home” election at 540 Maine St. could not accommodate the number of adults and their children as their permanent home within the meaning of the law. According to Google Maps and filings the house is listed as Spinka Shul or Synagogue.

Another 39 absentee voters listed similarly sized homes in the village, which are all owned by the same person and “fee” tax-free, according to the lawsuit. According to court papers, all voters enlisted Horowitz as an agent to pick up ballots from the same PO Box address in the city.

Mendlovich said he had “no relation” to voters who listed these addresses on their ballots, and offered that those who come to Fleischmann in the summer “share” their homes.

A Small Bridge Over A Brook In Fleischmanns.
Fleischmanns has about 300-year-old residents.
Daniel William McKnight for the NY Post

He owns approximately 17 properties in Fleischmann, including summer rental homes, a motel, a seasonal kosher restaurant, and a hotel called The Palace. The hotel is located in a residential neighborhood and was abandoned for almost a decade before Mendlovitch bought it in 2018.

According to court documents, Mendlovic sued to reopen The Palace after the village ruled that the property had lost its zoning status as a hotel, saying it did not meet existing building codes. does and would require special permits to reopen in a residential area.

Hughes and Halpern’s lawsuit claims the matter was settled soon after Gill and Cohen won the 2021 election of village trustees. According to court papers, at least 45 absentee voters emerged in that election to support the two men, who “immediately introduced and passed a new village zoning law suited to a single property: the Palace Hotel, which was mainly The hotel was styled as “the hotel”.

The Palace Hotel does not have a listed telephone number or website.

Mendlovitch admitted that he had problems getting projects approved, including a food market in the village.

Palace Hotel
Plans to reopen the Palace Hotel triggered litigation.
Daniel William McKnight

“They’ve tried to block me for years,” he said. However, he denied that there was any connection between the 2021 election and the approval of his Palace Hotel.

The suit also alleges that Mendlovich and Goldring are “blood related”—a point that Mendlovich disputes.

“Everyone is laughing about it,” said Mendlovich.

Court papers allege that this is the second time in two years that Fleischman’s election has been allegedly tampered with. Last year, however, when Gill and Cohen won with the help of dozens of absentee ballots, there was no formal challenge to the results.

Fleishmans resident Christine Panas, who opened the Village East Cafe in the city last September, complained that Mendlovic receives special treatment from city officials.

A Park With Mountains In The Background.
Fleischmans Village is at the foot of the Belaire Ski Mountain.
Daniel William McKnight for the NY Post

“I was put through a blender to get a permit for my store and now these other people are coming and getting what they want” without following building codes and regulations, Panas said. told the post.

Villagers tell The Post that the disappointment is that they are left speculating about Medlovic and Horowitz’s intentions. Got a glimpse of him in the meeting of Gram Sabha held on 11th April. The newly renovated community pool, set to reopen this summer, was the subject of discussion when Goldering suggested that there should be separate swimming times for men and women, according to several villagers who attended the meeting.

“That comment struck a chord with a lot of people who took note of it,” said a villager, who did not wish to be identified.

The officials are keeping an eye on the counting of votes. Delaware County District Attorney John Hubbard told The Post, “There were a number of votes that appear to be invalid,” citing the recently completed county sheriff’s investigation. He declined to give details but was confirmed as stated in court papers The investigation focused on whether the 67 people- Of whom 44 registered to vote a few weeks before the election and cast absentee ballots – qualified to vote in Fleischmans.

A Synagogue In Fleischmanns.
Fleshmans is a popular summer retreat for Orthodox Jews.
Daniel William McKnight for the NY Post

Court papers alleged that 120 ballots may have been fraudulently cast.

“I’m not sure whether there will be consequences for the people who cast the ballot,” Hubbard said.

The New York Attorney General’s office, whose Public Integrity Bureau focuses on government corruption, confirmed to The Post that it is “looking into the matter,” spokeswoman Morgan Rubin said in an email.

D. Jeremy Rasse, an assistant county attorney for Delaware County, told The Post that the next step is for the New York Supreme Court to “make a determination about the votes that were cast and whether they should be counted”. The court began looking into the evidence on May 20, when all the affidavits were due.

“It is possible that [the court’s ruling] Changes the outcome of the election,” Rasse said.

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