Michigan AG charges 3 in signature fraud scandal involving governor’s race | Politics & Elections | Detroit

click to enlarge Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.  - Courtesy photo

Courtesy photo

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed charges Thursday against three people accused of submitting thousands of forged nominating signatures that ended the candidacies of five Republican gubernatorial candidates last year.

Willie Reed, 37; Shawn Wilmoth, 36; and Jamie Lynn Wilmoth, 36, were each charged with more than two dozen crimes, including conducting a criminal enterprise, forgery, and false pretenses.

They face up to 20 years in prison.

At a news conference, Nessel said the Wilmoths, who are married, and Reed were “the worst actors,” but additional signature collectors could be charged.

“The investigating is ongoing,” Nessel said.

Nessel said the three defendants “absolutely knew that they were submitting forgeries to these campaigns.”

“What we are alleging is they made no effort to color the campaigns or eliminate the signatures they knew to be fraudulent before they passed them along to the campaigns,” Nessel said.

As of early Thursday afternoon, the Wilmoths were in custody, and Reed was being sought by the US Marshals Service, Nessel said.

Shawn Wilmoth was charged as a habitual offender because he was convicted of election fraud in Virginia in 2011.

As a result of the signature forgery ring, five of the 10 Republican gubernatorial candidates — former Detroit Police Chief James Craig, businessman Perry Johnson, financial adviser Michael Jay Markey, Michigan State Police Capt. Michael Brown, and entrepreneur Donna Brandenburg — were kicked off the ballot because they failed to collect enough valid petitions.

Tens of thousands of the signatures were forgeries, according to the Michigan Bureau of Elections.

In a statement, Brown applauded Nessel’s office.

“The coming months will shed light on the alleged actions of this group that cause significant disruption of the electoral process in 2022,” Brown said.

The circulators were used almost exclusively by conservative candidates. Democrats had been suspicious of the circulators for years and scoured the signatures last year for signs of fraud.

The scope of the forgeries shocked them.

“I have never seen such evidence of forgery and fraud in a petition drive in the nearly 40 years I have been practicing election law in Michigan,” attorney Mark Brewer, who filed the challenge against Craig’s signatures, said at the time.

In total, six gubernatorial candidates and two judicial candidates paid companies associated with the Wilmoths and Reed more than $700,000 to collect the signatures.

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