Voter fraud case rocks Borchtbilt in the Catskills

A small town in the Borcht Belt that summoned Orthodox Jewish vacationers in the summer held a pivotal election this spring that was nothing but kosher, according to an explosive lawsuit that sparked a government investigation into alleged voter fraud.

Fleischmanns – a leafy hamlet at the foot of the Belleayre ski resort in the Catskills – has been thrown into disarray after two losing candidates for village trustee accused a pair of Hasidic property owners of rigging ballot boxes to install rubber officials – sealing their development plans according to a lawsuit obtained in the mail.

Businesses along the tree-lined Main Street and its year-round locals of 300 are lining up in the March elections for two of the four guardianship seats — a year after the other two seats were won by candidates backed by the same residents. Hasidic, Joseph Horowitz and Ygdor Mendelovich.

Voters in the historic village, named after the Fleischmann family that built the yeast-bread empire, hurl insults and accuse each other of bullying, anti-Semitism, and fraud at public meetings, with some concern about future use of municipal facilities including a recently renovated city pool.

I think the end game is to turn this into a religious community where [Hasidic] Vicki Fzirko, who owns a second home in Fleischmanns, told The Post.

Fleischmanns – a small village at the foot of the Belleayre Ski Resort in the Catskills – is in turmoil.
Daniel William McKnight for The New York Post

In the March 15 elections for two seats on the four-seat Village Board of Trustees, Yasmin Sarabia and Aaron Goldring convincingly won by 135 and 123 votes, respectively. Their rivals Elizabeth Hughes and Dan Halperin received 54 and 39 votes, respectively.

However, both winners received 120 votes from the absentee ballot. This is against the previous election, which was won by just 30 votes. The number of registered voters was February 1, 201. Just five weeks later the number had risen to 268, according to Hughes.

Hughes and Halpern filed a lawsuit days later, claiming that the votes were at the behest of Horowitz and Mendlovich, who own large tracts of real estate catering to Hasidic tenants in Fleischmanns. The duo recruited summer tenants from New Jersey and New York City to vote illegally via absentee ballots, listing vacant motel rooms among other unlikely addresses as their primary residence, the lawsuit alleges.

Suite next to the Fleischmann sign.
Allegations of voter fraud upend this rural village.
Daniel William McKnight for The New York Post

“We think we’ve exposed voter fraud,” said Hughes, who moved to Fleischmans from Brooklyn during the pandemic. “In a small community like this, it’s obvious.”

“The whole thing is very stark in terms of absentee votes,” Halperin added, noting that the winning candidates did not campaign or offer any public explanation as to why they ran.

“The only ones who took part in the campaign were me and Elizabeth,” Halperin said. “We would go door to door, put up posters in the village, advertise in newspapers and send mail.”

Goldring himself lives in Lakeland, New Jersey where he is registered to vote. The suit alleges that he “even handwritten ‘NJ’ as the ballot application requested information about his place of residence. But he also provided Fleischmanns’ address – a “hostel-like structure” used seasonally for a few weeks in the summer by the Hasidic community, according to the suit.”

Elizabeth Hughes holds the campaign poster.
Elizabeth Hughes says she lost the March election for village trustee due to too many illegal absentee votes.
Daniel William McKnight for The New York Post

Goldring did not respond to numerous emails and phone calls seeking comment.

Sarabia resides in Fleischmanns and works in a local store owned by another Mendlovic-backed trustee – Sam Gil – who along with Stewart Cohen was elected trustee in March 2021. Sarabia also did not return calls for comment.

The trustees’ attorney James Curran filed a request for summary judgment on May 16, arguing that the petition failed to meet certain filing deadlines. He also argued that many people own more than one property or residence in New York and that there is nothing “unscrupulous or inherently questionable about this practice,” noting that the law allows people to choose from where they vote.

A lawsuit filed in March by Hughes and Halperin in the New York District Court of Delaware names the rival candidates, the county election board and the village clerk, alleging that a “religious cult” is attempting to “fraudulently take over the Fleischmanns village government.”

Fleischmanns in 1925.
Fleischmanns in 1925. The resort town, named after the family that built the yeast-bread empire, has its roots in the 19th century.
Getty Images

In an interview with The Post, Mendelovich called the lawsuit “nonsense” and said there was no “organised” effort to recruit voters. “They make up stories,” he said.

Horowitz declined to comment for this story.

Winifred Szubin, Mayor of Fleischmanns, also refused to consider the controversy.

Zubin told The Post, “I am trying to protect the integrity of the village elections, I have no position on [election]. “

It wouldn’t be the first small village in the North to encounter voter fraud. In 2016, the FBI arrested three men in Bloomingburg, New York, who were later convicted and served prison terms for attempting to spoil a local election by bribing nonresidents to register and vote in Sullivan County. Their plan was to implement a country house development project to accommodate Hasidic families.

Valkyrie Motel.
At least two voters, who submitted absentee ballots in a local election, listed the Valkyrie Hotel as their residence.
Daniel William McKnight for The New York Post

The three men — Shalom Lamm, Kenneth Nakdemin and Fulfi Smilowitz — “developed a false scheme to register voters who never lived in Bloomingburg, including some who never set foot there,” former Manhattan US attorney Preet Bharara He said in a statement that the indictment was disclosed at the time.

Bharara added that the trio “allegedly faked old lease contracts and even toothpaste and toothbrushes in empty apartments to make it look like they were occupied by falsely registered voters.”

In the Fleischmans case, the suit alleged that four voters listed vacant hostel rooms as their primary residence. It also claims that 24 voters listed the same tax-exempt religious property as their primary residence.

House at 556 Main Street in Fleischmans, New York.
Sixteen voters, who submitted absentee ballots, offered this house as their residence in Fleischmanns.
Daniel William McKnight for The New York Post

The suit states that the “modest single-family home” at 540 Main Street “cannot accommodate such number of adults and their children as their permanent residence within the meaning of the Elections Act.” The house is listed as a Spinka Shul, or synagogue, according to Google Maps and Files.

Another 39 absentee voters listed homes of similar sizes in the village all owned by the same person as tax-exempt “scholes,” according to the lawsuit. All voters listed Horowitz as an agent to pick up ballots from the same city mailbox address, according to court papers.

Mendelovich said he had “no connection” with the voters who listed these addresses on their ballots, and offered that people who come to Fleischmanns in the summer have “stocks” in their homes.

Small bridge over a stream in Fleischmanns.
There are about 300 residents throughout the year in Fleischmanns.
Daniel William McKnight for The New York Post

He owns about 17 properties in Fleischmanns, including summer rental homes, a motel, a seasonal kosher restaurant, and a hotel called The Palace. The hotel is located in a residential neighborhood and was abandoned for nearly a decade before Mendelovitch bought it in 2018.

According to court documents, Mendelovic filed a lawsuit to reopen the mansion after the village ruled that the property had lost its zoning status as a hotel, saying it did not meet current building codes and would need special permits to reopen in a residential area.

The lawsuit filed by Hughes and Halperin alleges that the matter was settled shortly after Jill and Cohen won the 2021 election of village trustees. According to court documents, at least 45 absentee voters appeared in that election in support of the two men, who “immediately introduced and passed a new law to divide villages in favor of a single property: the Palace Hotel, which despite its design as a “hotel” primarily serves “individuals.” The aforementioned religious sect,” according to the lawsuit.

The Palace Hotel does not have a phone number or website listed.

Mendelovich admitted that he is having problems getting approval for projects in the village, including the food market.

Palace Hotel
Plans to reopen the Palace Hotel sparked litigation.
Daniel William McKnight

“They’ve tried to stop me” over the years, he said. However, he denied a link between the 2021 elections and the approval of the Palace Hotel.

The lawsuit also alleges that Mendelovich and Goldring are “blood relatives” – a point that Mendelovich disputes.

“Everyone laughs about it,” Mendelovich said.

Court papers claim that this is the second time in two years that Fleischmanns’ elections have allegedly been rigged. But last year, when Jill and Cohen won with the help of dozens of absentee votes, there was no official objection to the results.

Kristin Banas, a Fleischmanns resident who opened the Village East Café in the city last September, complained that Mendelovitch appeared to have received special treatment from city authorities.

Garden with mountains in the background.
The village of Fleischmanns is located at the foothills of the Belleayre Ski Mountain.
Daniel William McKnight for The New York Post

“I went through a mixer to get a permit for my store and now these other people come in and get what they want” without following building codes and rules, Banas told The Post.

The villagers told The Post the frustration was that they were left guessing about Medlovic and Horowitz’s motives. But the April 11 village council meeting gave them a glimpse. The newly renovated community pool, set to reopen this summer, was a topic of discussion when Goldring suggested there should be separate swimming times for men and women, according to several villagers who attended the meeting.

“This comment hit a lot of people who noticed it mentally,” said a villager who did not want to be identified.

The ballot brawl attracted the attention of the authorities. “There have been a number of votes that appear to be invalid,” Delaware County District Attorney John Hubbard told The Post, citing a recent investigation by the county mayor. He declined to provide details, but confirmed what was stated in the court papers The investigation focused on whether 67 people – 44 of them registered to vote just weeks before the election and cast absentee votes – eligible to vote in Fleischmanns.

Synagogue in Fleischmanns.
Fleischmanns is a popular summer retreat for Orthodox Jews
Daniel William McKnight for The New York Post

Court papers alleged that as many as 120 ballot papers may have been cast fraudulently.

“I’m not sure if there are consequences for the individuals who voted,” Hubbard added.

Morgan Rubin, a spokesman for the New York Attorney General’s Office, whose Office of Public Integrity focuses on government corruption, told The Post he was “looking into the matter.”

The next step is for the New York Supreme Court to “make a decision on what votes were cast and whether they should be counted,” DeJeremy Rassi, an assistant district attorney for Delaware County, told The Post. The court began examining the evidence on May 20, when all affidavits were due to be presented.

“maybe [the court’s ruling] “It changes the outcome of the election,” Rassi said.

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