NY DA launches probe into fraud allegations over Zeldin nomination: report

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An upstate New York district attorney is reportedly moving forward with a probe into election-fraud allegations connected to the nomination of the Republican candidate for governor, Rep. Lee Zeldin, the same week absentee ballots are being sent out in the high-stakes race against Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul.

The Times Union first reported on Sunday that the Albany County District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Board of Elections were moving forward with an investigation into thousands of duplicated signatures submitted during the nomination process as part of an effort to secure Zeldin on the Independence Party Line. 

According to the report, “Investigators initially suspected the roughly 11,000 duplicate signatures, which were photocopied at the state Republican Party headquarters in Albany, had been inserted in the petitions due to a clerical error. But investigators are now examining whether there are potential criminal charges because it appears the duplicate signatures were deliberately mixed into the petitions, a source with knowledge of the investigation said.”

Zeldin himself was not involved in the process of submitting the signatures, according to the newspaper. That was handled by John F. Haggerty, Jr., who serves in a leadership role for the New York State Republican Party. 

Still, Hochul’s campaign seized on the report.

NEW YORK GOV. HOCHUL UNDER FIRE FOR COVID TEST DEMOCRATIC DONOR DEAL WEEK BEFORE ABSENTEE BALLOTS SENT OUT 

Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-NY, campaigns for governor during the annual West Indian Day parade on September 5, 2022 in Brooklyn, New York City. 
(Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images)

Haggerty was sentenced in 2011 to nearly four years in prison following a grand larceny and money laundering conviction for stealing $750,000 from former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg during his 2009 re-election campaign, according to a New York Times story at the time. 

The Hochul campaign issued remarks on Sunday, stating that the Times Union’s reporting revealed that the “Albany County District Attorney’s office and the State Board of Elections are moving forward with a criminal investigation into fraudulent petitions submitted by Lee Zeldin’s campaign.” 

A Sunday statement from Hochul campaign manager, Brian Lenzmeier, added, “After months of non-answers and finger-pointing, New Yorkers deserve to know who exactly was involved in Xerox Zeldin’s election fraud scandal. The facts here are clear: Zeldin’s campaign manager knowingly signed off on 47 volumes of petitions containing more than 11,000 photocopied signatures.” 

“As a congressman, Lee Zeldin supported legal efforts to overturn the 2020 election and pushed baseless conspiracy theories under the banner of ‘election integrity,’ but apparently that doesn’t apply to his own campaign,” Lenzmeier alleged. “His campaign is now implicated in a criminal investigation for attempting to defraud voters and Zeldin needs to be held accountable.”

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul during a New York State Financial Control Board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. 

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul during a New York State Financial Control Board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2022. 
(Stephanie Keith/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

In August, a spokeswoman for the New York Board of Elections confirmed to Fox News Digital that of the signatures submitted for Zeldin to run on the Independence Party line — in addition to the GOP ticket — just 39,228 were validated, falling short of the 45,000 required. Nearly 13,000 others were deemed invalid for a swath of reasons, including duplicate signatures, voters not properly registered, or incorrect addresses, she said. She did not comment on whether any photocopied signatures were found.

The news about the probe comes around the same time the Times Union reported about an alleged pay-to-play COVID-19 test deal for one of Hochul’s political donors. According to the report, Hochul’s campaign received $300,000 from a donor whose company, Digital Gadgets, later secured an over $600 million contract to supply rapid tests for New York state. California paid 45% less for rapid COVID-19 tests by buying directly from the same New Jersey-based supplier, AccessBio. 

Republican nominee for Governor, Lee Zeldin, holds a press conference demanding Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul join him on the debate stage for a minimum of five televised debates throughout New York. 

Republican nominee for Governor, Lee Zeldin, holds a press conference demanding Democrat Gov. Kathy Hochul join him on the debate stage for a minimum of five televised debates throughout New York. 
(Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

A spokeswoman for Zeldin refuted the claims in a statement to Fox News Digital on Monday.

“Here are the extremely inconvenient facts that have not changed and will not change no matter how hard Kathy Hochul tries to distract from her massive pay-to-play scandals: The Zeldin campaign had no knowledge of photocopies and the Zeldin campaign did not make any photocopies,” Katie Vincentz said. “Kathy Hochul’s pay-to-play with Digital Gadgets is one of many corruption scandals that need to be investigated. The family that owns Digital Gadgets gave Hochul $300,000 in campaign contributions. After she unilaterally signed off on self-claimed COVID Emergency Powers where she suspended the state’s competitive bidding laws, Kathy Hochul entered into a no-bid, over $600 million contract with Digital Gadgets to provide COVID tests at twice the going rate, which Digital Gadgets doesn’t even manufacture.”

The statement continued, “Digital Gadgets was just an unnecessary, wasteful middleman that Hochul paid off, massively ripping off New York taxpayers in the process. Where’s the Democrat Attorney General, Democrat State Comptroller, and Democrat Albany District Attorney on that? Oh yeah, there’s an election coming up on November 8th, so they eagerly look the other way. Give me a break!”

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New York could have saved $286 million if it paid the same price, according to the report. 

In an appearance on Fox News on Sunday, Zeldin appealed to Democratic voters in the staunchly blue electorate to help him “save this state,” criticizing Hochul for suggesting that he move down to Florida after she’s accused the Republican of being a pro-Trump extremist not fit to run New York. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: This report has been updated to clarify the reported investigation into fraud allegations. 

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