EDISON — Documents show that in addition to two school board members, two township councilmen signed the nominating petition of Nilesh Dasondi — the felon running for a seat in the upcoming school board race.
Dasondi, who in 2009 served six months in federal prison on charges of immigration fraud and a money laundering conspiracy, acquired the signatures of Democratic councilmen Joseph Coyle and Ajay Patil, according to the petition obtained by NJ Advance Media.
Bimal Joshi, a local political activist in the Democratic Party, was also among the signers of the petition.
Coyle said he was unaware of Dasondi’s criminal history when he gave his signature. Coyle said he was volunteering at the farmer’s market one afternoon when Dasondi approached him for his signature.
He is now strongly condemning Dasondi’s candidacy, saying “I can’t support him knowing those facts.”
Patil and Joshi could not be reached for comment. Dasondi’s run has sparked a variety of reactions from politicians in the area.
In a recent interview, Councilman Robert Diehl, a Democrat, said that if the law permitted Dasondi to serve, he “would not have a problem with that.”
Diehl, however, added, “If the law says he’s unable to serve, then the law is the law.”
The 12 signatures on Dasondi’s petition, which was filed on July 21, included two school board officials — Frank Heelan, president of the township Board of Education, and Ralph Errico, another member of the school board.
Heelan has since said he regretted signing the petition, saying that he was unaware of Dasondi’s past when he signed it, according to a published report.
Signing the petition, he added, “does not mean I was endorsing this guy. I absolutely had no knowledge.”
In 2009, Dasondi pleaded guilty in a more than $850,000 immigration scam in connection with using his company, Cygate Software, to obtain fraudulent work visas and green cards for several people who were not his employees. His company was disbanded, and after serving six months in federal prison, he was ordered to pay a $50,000 fine, and to repay $296,921.82 in restitution. He served two years probation after being released.
State law prevents convicted first or second-degree felons, under which Dasondi’s conviction falls, from serving on a school board. However, because criminal background checks are not conducted until 30 days after elections, Dasondi would be disqualified only after being elected.