Now-former Elmwood Park Mayor Francesco Caramagna contends that voter fraud charges brought against him by the Bergen County Prosecutor's Office were politically motivated.
Caramagna, who resigned from office after prosecutors accused him of filling in ballots for voters, maintained his "complete innocence" and vowed to fight what he characterized as "politically motivated" charges, in a resignation letter sent Monday to Acting Borough Clerk Erin Delaney.
Caramagna, 74, also said he resigned "with sadness and a heavy heart" after consulting family, friends and a defense attorney.
He claimed he did it "not because I have in some way betrayed my office but to minimize my embarrassment to my family, friends and supporters as I defend against whatever accusations might ultimately be made against me.
"I do so also to prevent the use of this investigation by my political opponents to smear the good reputation of the democratic candidates running for re-election in November, whom I will continue to support for the good of Elmwood Park," he wrote.
Daily Voice reported last week that a defense attorney was in talks with the prosecutor's office aimed at negotiating a plea bargain -- which would have required Caramagna's resignation among the conditions. His term would have expired this Dec. 31.
Caramagna, who became the first Democratic mayor of the borough in 47 years when he was elected to the post in 2017, was on vacation with his family in Orlando and couldn't be reached when Daily Voice broke the news last week.
He was booked into the Bergen County Jail on Monday, then was ordered released pending a May 22 first appearance in Central Judicial Processing Court in Hackensack.
Acting Bergen County Prosecutor Dennis Calo said his office received a complaint earlier this month that Caramagna "interfered with the election process with regard to applications for vote by mail ballots in the 2017 mayoral election in Elmwood Park."
Calo said his investigators determined that, between March 2017 and November 2018, Caramagna "had interfered with the secrecy of the election process by completing portions of the application for vote by mail ballot, primary election ballot certifications and general election ballot certifications of registered voters in the borough."
A grandfather of six who won the mayoralty on his fifth try, Caramagna taught Italian and Spanish for several years at Elmwood Park High School. He's also a former Board of Education trustee.
Caramagna currently has the option of a pre-indictment guilty plea, which would lead to a more lenient sentence than he'd receive otherwise. Or he can wait and see what type of charges a grand jury returns and decide whether he wants to try and cut a deal with prosecutors or go to trial.
Council President Daniel Golabek, 24, will be acting mayor until Democrats select someone to serve out the remaining seven months of Caramagna's term.
MUGSHOT: Courtesy BERGEN COUNTY PROSECUTOR
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