A New Jersey postal service worker has been arrested after more than 1,800 pieces of mail, including 99 election ballots, were found in dumpsters.
Nicholas Beauchene, 26, of Kearny was charged Wednesday with one count of delay, secretion, or detention of mail, and one count of obstruction of mail, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
US Attorney Craig Carpenito said about 1,875 pieces of mail were recovered from three dumpsters on Oct. 2 and Oct. 5. The mail included "627 pieces of first class, 873 pieces of standard class, two pieces of certified mail, 99 general election ballots destined for residents in West Orange, and 276 campaign flyers from local candidates for West Orange Town Council and Board of Education."
According to a criminal complaint, Beauchene was the only mail carrier assigned to a route that included the addresses to which the dumped pieces of mail were directed on the days on which they would have been delivered.
The Postal Service's Office of the Inspector General launched an investigation after North Arlington resident Howard Dinger noticed mail — including election ballots — in his dumpster while he was taking out his garbage Friday.
"To have that all go in the trash like that was, in my mind, really ridiculous,” Dinger told CBS2 on Tuesday. "The ballots are the ballots. The election is the election. It is what it is. But these people have legal notices and checks and God knows what they’re expecting."
DOJ officials did not say if they believed the alleged act was politically motivated.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced states across the country to make accommodations for mail-in voting for this year's election, something President Donald Trump has publicly said he considers to be "the biggest risk" to his reelection.
The Trump campaign and the Republican party are currently waging lawsuits in multiple states against mail-in voting or to pass measures that voting rights advocates say will make it more difficult for Americans to safely vote during the coronavirus pandemic.
"My biggest risk is that we don’t win lawsuits,” Trump said during an interview with Politico on July 19. “We have many lawsuits going all over. And if we don’t win those lawsuits, I think — I think it puts the election at risk.”
In July, a West Virginia postal service worker pleaded guilty to attempting to defraud the state's citizens of a fair election after he changed the party registration of five primary election absentee ballot requests from Democrat to Republican.