Report: Rodriguez arrested

The Bergen Record reports that state police arrested At-Large Paterson Councilman Rigo Rodriguez this morning on charges of witness tampering.

Authorities also arrested Rodriguez’s wife.

According to an afternon release from the AG’s Office, Rodriguez, 38, Lissette Rodriguez, 31, and cheif of staff Juan L. Jimenez, 45, of Paterson, were each arrested this morning on third-degree charges. 

State police arrested the defendant at their homes in Paterson this morning. The New Jersey State Police Official Corruption North Unit then transported them to the Totowa Station and issued complaint summonses. The defendants are expected to be released later today, and will be ordered to appear at the Passaic County Superior Court at a later date yet to be determined, according to state Attorney General Paula Dow. 

“It is alleged that after the defendants became aware of an active investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice and State Police, they instructed voters as to how to answer police questions, including advising them to lying to police.”

A leader of the Dominican American community in Paterson, Rodriguez was a potential mayoral candidate this year until he forged an alliance with incumbent Jose Torres. In his re-election bid for his at-large council seat, Rodriguez lost to Ken McDaniels, then narrowly won after a late count of 49 absentee ballots.

Including today’s arrests, state police bagged a total of 14 people this week in connection with the alleged voter fraud schemes.  A 15th person involved with this case remains a fugitive.

Seven people were arrested on Tuesday on charges of second- and third-degree voter fraud and third-degree tampering with public record:  Belkis M. Cespedes, 50, of Paterson; Ana Vely-Gomez, 47, of Paterson; Lucia A. Guzman, 41, of Paterson; Inocencio Jimenez, 55, of Paterson; and Jose Ramon Ruiz, 62, of Prospect Park.  In addition, Dalila Rodriguez, 60, of Paterson, and Wilson A. Torres, 29, of Paterson, were arrested yesterday on charges of third-degree voter fraud and third-degree tampering with public records.

Four people were arrested yesterday and charged with third-degree voter fraud and third-degree tampering with public records: Octavio A. Dominguez, 47, of Elmwood Park; Juana A. Gil, 43, of Paterson; Jose E. Gonzalez, 42, of Paterson; and Loudes Inoa, 37, of Paterson.

In addition, Ricardo A. Fermin-Cepeda, 24, of Paterson, was charged with second- and third-degree voter fraud and third-degree tampering with public records.  Fermin-Cepeda is currently a fugitive.

The defendants arrested yesterday and Tuesday, as well as Fermin-Cepeda, all allegedly acted as bearers/messengers for mail-in (absentee) ballots. The complaint summonses allege that the defendants tampered with mail-in ballots and/or voted mail-in ballots on behalf of voters who did not receive the ballots or who did not authorize them to vote for them.

It is also alleged that Cespedes voted twice – once using her married named of Belkis Cespedes and once using her maiden name of Belkis Nunez.

Following the May 2010 city council election, “the Division of Criminal Justice received complaints of possible voter fraud.  The Division of Criminal Justice Corruption Bureau and the New Jersey State Police Official Corruption Unit launched an investigation approximately one week after the election.”

Second-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in state prison and a criminal fine of $150,000 while third-degree crimes carry a maximum sentence of five years in state prison and a $15,000 fine.

The breaking Bergen Record story from this morning:

Report: Rodriguez arrested