Real Estate Developer of New York Hasidic Enclave Charged With Electoral Conspiracy

Shalom Lamm is charged in federal court with two co-conspirators. They face a maximum five year prison term.

Wikimedia Commons / Daniel Case

NEW YORK – Shalom Lamm, the real estate developer of an upstate New York Hasidic enclave and son of former Yeshiva University chancellor Norman Lamm, has been indicted on federal charges of conspiracy to corrupt the electoral process.

According to the indictment handed down by the Southern District Court of New York, Lamm, 57, and two co-conspirators went to remarkable lengths to falsely register voters in Bloomingburg, N.Y., the Satmar outpost building development, bribing them to pretend they lived there.

The developers’ goal was to vote in a mayor and other local elected officials who favored their controversial development, which was then and still is facing significant local opposition, the indictment says.

Lamm and his alleged coconspirators backdated leases and went so far as to furnish apartments, even putting clothing in the closets, toothpaste and toothbrushes in the bathrooms and beer, soda and snacks in the apartments to make them look lived in.

They also filed change of address forms and picked up mail every two days from the Bloomingburg addresses, the indictment says.

Lamm, and his business partner Kenneth Nakdimen, 64, bought land in tiny Bloomingburg in 2006 intending to build multiple developments designed to house Satmar Hasidim, who are overcrowded in nearby Kiryas Joel.

The first of their projects was 396 townhouses. The developers chose the Sullivan County, New York hamlet “in part because of Bloomingburg’s small population, which made it vulnerable to being taken over,” according to the indictment issued by Preet Bharara, the U.S. attorney.

Their efforts didn’t work at first. In December 2013 the Village’s planning board voted against zoning changes sought by Lamm and Nakdimen. An election was planned for three months later.

There were two candidates for mayor — one who was opposed to the Lamm project and one who, according to the indictment, was “a confidant of Shalom Lamm, the defendant.”

In the time leading up to the election Lamm and Nakdimen worked with Volvy a.k.a. Zev Smilowitz, 28. They bought and filed false voter registrations, bribing people to falsely claim they lived in Bloomingburg.

They offered cash and rent-free housing to people who did not live in the village in exchange for their registering to vote and voting there, the indictment says. 

Lamm paid $500 to someone for each fraudulent voter they procured, the indictment says, and ultimately paid that person more than $30,000 per month for his efforts.

Some of the properties in which the fraudulent voters claimed to live were uninhabitable and others were occupied by different people, the indictment says.

On election day Lamm, Nakdimen, Smilowitz and their representatives picked up the fraudulently registered voters, coached them on what to say, according to the document.

“In pursuit of millions of dollars in profits from a real estate development project, the defendants allegedly hatched a cynical ploy to corrupt the electoral process in Bloomingburg,” said Bharara, in a statement.  

“The defendants concocted a scheme to falsely register voters who did not live in Bloomingburg, including some who had never even set foot thereProfit-driven corruption of democracy cannot be allowed to stand no matter who does it or where it happens.”

A spokesman for Shalom Lamm’s attorneys told Haaretz, “Shalom Lamm has been aware of this investigation for almost three years, and is eager to defend himself against this unfounded charge. We intend to fight the charge vigorously at trial.”

Lamm and his alleged co-conspirators face up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if found guilty. 

Lamm won’t immediately spend any time in prison, said Allan Ripp, the spokesman for attorneys Larry Krantz and Gordon Mehler. Instead, he will be out on bail. Ripp declined to say who was providing the bail money.