New York DA launches ‘criminal’ probe into Republican candidate Lee Zeldin over election fraud allegations

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An upstate New York district attorney is moving forward with a criminal probe into elections fraud allegations lauded against 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 Albany County District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Board of Elections were moving forward with a criminal investigation into thousands of duplicated signatures submitted during the nomination process as part of an effort to secure Zeldin on the Independence Party Line. 

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. 

When news of the election fraud allegations initially broke this summer, Zeldin’s campaign spokeswoman, Katie Vincentz, denied that the Republican’s campaign participated or had any knowledge of the photocopied signatures and said Hochul was “desperate for any distraction” from her own failures regarding soaring violence in the state, calling the Democratic governor the “undisputed queen of scandal, abuse, and pay to play corruption.”

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. 

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)

Zeldin’s campaign did not immediately return requests for comment sent on Monday. 

“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,” Hochul’s campaign manager, Brian Lenzmeier, said in a statement on Sunday. 

“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)

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. 

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.

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)

The news about the criminal 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. 

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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. 

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