NEWARK, New Jersey (WABC) -- Officials announced a U.S. Postal Service (USPS) mail carrier from New Jersey was arrested Wednesday for discarding mail, including 99 general election ballots sent from the County Board of Elections and intended to be delivered to West Orange residents from his assigned routes in Orange and West Orange.
Nicholas Beauchene, 26, of Kearny, is charged by complaint with one count of delay, secretion, or detention of mail and one count of obstruction of mail. His bail was set at $25,000 with conditions.
Approximately 1,875 pieces of mail - including 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 - were recovered from dumpsters in North Arlington and West Orange on Oct. 2 and Oct 5, according to documents and statements made in court.
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The mail had been scheduled to be delivered on Sept. 28, Oct. 1, and Oct. 2, 2020, to addresses on certain postal routes in Orange and West Orange. On the delivery dates for which mail was recovered, Beauchene was the only mail carrier assigned to deliver mail to the addresses on the recovered mail.
Federal prosecutors stated that the evidence at this time does not indicate that the defendant's actions were politically motivated.
Officials say the recovered mail was placed back into the mail stream for delivery to its intended recipients. Copies of the recovered mail were made and retained as evidence.
The delay of mail charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The obstruction of mail charge is punishable by a maximum penalty of six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.
The man who found the discarded mail in a North Arlington dumpster last Friday said he was working when he came across it.
"At first it looked like junk mail circulars and things like that, and then I flipped over a piece and I saw something that said address correction and all that kind of thing," Howard Dinger said. "It's important mail, but thing, flip through a few more pages I saw the ballots on it, and at that point I knew it was serious.
He said he reached out to the post office and then called as a non-emergency to police.
"To be honest, I'm not very political," Dinger said. "I mean the election is important, but I was more concerned about social security checks, you know, credit checks. Things like that. All kinds of stuff, and it's important to a lot of people."
Dinger said he pulled out five mail bins out of the dumpster on Friday.
"Unbelievable amount of mail," he said. "And there's all bundled like for each block. I guess that's about two to 300 pounds of mail."
He added that it's not fair for one person to ruin the reputation of so many good mailmen out there.