A 26-year-old U.S. Postal Service mail carrier has been arrested on charges of ditching nearly 2,000 pieces of mail, including 99 general election mail-in ballots intended to be delivered to West Orange residents.

Nicholas Beauchene, of Kearny, was charged in U.S. District Court with one count of delay, secretion, or detention of mail and one count of obstruction of mail.

According to federal prosecutors, about 1,875 pieces of mail were recovered from dumpsters in North Arlington and West Orange on Oct. 2 and 5.

In addition to the ballots sent by the Essex County Board of Elections, the pile also included 627 pieces of First Class mail, 873 pieces of standard mail, two pieces of Certified Mail and 276 campaign flyers from local candidates for West Orange Town Council and Board of Education, U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito said Wednesday.

The mail had been scheduled to be delivered on Sept. 28, Oct. 1, and Oct. 2, to addresses on Beauchene's postal routes in Orange and West Orange.

Carpenito did not explain why investigators believe Beauchene dumped the mail.

The recovered mail was placed back into the mail stream for delivery to its intended recipients, according to Carpenito, who also said copies of the recovered mail were retained as evidence.

Messages left with the Essex County Clerk's Office seeking responses to questions about the integrity of the ballots were not returned by Wednesday afternoon.

If convicted, Beauchene faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the delay of mail charge. The obstruction of mail charge is punishable by up to six months in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Under Gov. Phil Murphy's directives, every active registered voter has been sent a mail-in ballot for the general election, which includes contests for the presidency and U.S. Senate.

Other than voters with disabilities who need to use ADA-accessible machines, any voting at polling places on Nov. 3 will be done by paper provisional ballots.

Voters who have not received a ballot by Oct. 12 can check their mail-in ballot status online at Vote.NJ.Gov or by contacting their respective County Clerk, listed on the state's County Election Officials page.

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