The last defendant in a voter fraud case that once threatened some of Essex County’s most prominent politicians was sentenced today to five years in state prison, the state Attorney General’s Office said. John Fernandez, 61, of Belleville, who worked for the Essex County Department of Economic Development, was ordered to forfeit his job and was permanently barred from public employment in the state, the office said in a news release.
In September, a Mercer County jury found Fernandez was guilty of submitting ballots on behalf of voters in the Nov. 6, 2007, general election without their knowledge. He helped collect ballots on behalf of Teresa Ruiz, who won the election and still serves in the Senate.
The jury convicted him of conspiracy, election fraud, absentee ballot fraud, tampering with public records or information and forgery.
“This prison sentence should stand as a strong deterrent to anyone who would tamper with ballots in New Jersey and impede the fundamental right of our citizens to have their votes counted in fair and open elections,” Attorney General Jeffrey Chiesa said in a statement. “We will continue to prosecute those who interfere with the electoral process.”