An indictment unsealed in Los Angeles charged nine people accused of participating in voting fraud schemes — in which homeless people were allegedly offered cash or cigarettes in exchange for forged signatures on initiative petitions and voter registration forms.
Seven of the accused pleaded not guilty early Friday. The two others have not yet appeared in court on the new case.
Prosecutors have accused the group of 14 felonies for a variety of alleged acts during the 2016 and 2018 election cycles, including charges of circulating an initiative with forged or fictitious names, signing fictitious names, registering fictitious persons, and making payment for signatures, according to the indictment. None of the defendants faces all of the charges.
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The alleged scheme was first reported by NBCLA last year, when officers from the LAPD’s Central Division arrested several people who appeared to be offering cash to homeless people along Skid Row. Undercover officers approached and witnessed some of the transactions, police said.
Some of those first arrested were quickly released from jail amid confusion about the nature of the case, law enforcement officials told NBCLA. Felony charges were initially filed last November after FBI agents joined the investigation.
The LA County District Attorney’s Office said each of the defendants could face more than four years in prison if convicted.