A forged signature swapped for $1 — or sometimes a cigarette.
The crude exchange played out hundreds of times on L.A.’s skid row during the 2016 election cycle and again this year, prosecutors said Tuesday as they announced criminal charges against nine people accused in a fraud scheme.
Using cash and cigarettes as lures, the defendants approached homeless people on skid row and asked them to forge signatures on state ballot measure petitions and voter registration forms, the district attorney’s office said. The defendants — some of whom were scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday — face several criminal charges, including circulating a petition with fake names, voter fraud and registering a fictitious person.
The charges, which were filed three weeks ago but made public Tuesday, followed a Los Angeles Police Department crackdown on suspected election fraud on skid row earlier in the year.
“They paid individuals to sign the names,” Officer Deon Joseph, the senior lead officer on skid row,told The Times in September. “That’s an assault on our democracy.”
State officials said petition signature scams aren’t widespread in California, but Joseph said they do pop up from time to time on skid row. People hired to help qualify initiatives for the ballot are often paid per signature collected, typically $1 to $2, but officials said a recent slew of proposed ballot initiatives had pushed the rate as high as $6 a signature. It is illegal for the collectors, however, to pay people for signatures.