WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. (AP) — A real estate developer pleaded guilty Tuesday to a conspiracy charge after prosecutors said he teamed with another developer to pay bribes to falsely register voters and install development-friendly officials in what he boasted to investors was New York state's tiniest village.
Shalom Lamm, 57, entered the plea to conspiring to corrupt the electoral process in White Plains federal court, admitting his role in a scheme to falsely register voters in the Sullivan County village of Bloomingburg, which has a population of about 420 people.
The plea came in a rare voter-fraud case brought well before heightened attention to the subject emerged after President Donald Trump claimed after November's presidential election that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton captured nearly 3 million more popular votes than he did because of widespread voter fraud.
According to an indictment, the charge stemmed from a March 2014 election for the office of mayor and other jobs in Bloomingburg. The plan ultimately failed to corral enough votes to win approval for residential real estate projects that would have boosted the population of the village by thousands of people.
Prosecutors said Lamm and a co-defendant chose Bloomingburg for the developments because of its small population, making it vulnerable to a takeover.
The indictment said Lamm boasted to investors in January 2013 that developers had worked in secret for seven years to create a "transformative development" that would capitalize on the state's smallest village, allowing owners in the development to "effectively control the local government, its zoning and ordinances."
It said he conspired with others to offer cash and other payments, including rent-free housing to individuals who did not live in Bloomingburg but were willing to vote there. He and others also back-dated leases and placed personal items in properties, including clothing, toothpaste and toothbrushes, to make it appear there were residents in unoccupied dwellings, the indictment said.
Prosecutors said Lamm paid one individual more than $30,000 after promising to provide $500 for each person the individual signed up to vote in the election.
Lamm's attorney, Gordon Mehler, declined to comment.
Acting Manhattan U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said Lamm "conspired to advance his real estate development project by corrupting the democratic process, specifically by falsely registering voters. The integrity of our electoral process must be inviolate at every level; our democracy depends on it."
Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 28 before U.S. District Judge Vincent Briccetti. A co-defendant pleaded guilty last week.