Keyser petition circulator arrested on felony forgery charges

A signature purporting to belong to Broomfield resident Judy De Santis, who died weeks before petitions were circulated, appears on a nominating petition submitted by Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser. A state employee notified election officials that the dead woman's name had improperly appeared on the petition in April but Secretary of State Wayne Williams didn't learn of the suspicions until May 17.

Denver police on Wednesday arrested the woman accused of forging signatures on petitions she was paid to gather for Republican U.S. Senate candidate Jon Keyser.

Prosecutors filed 34 felony forgery charges Monday against Maureen Marie Moss, 45, who stands accused of submitting 34 fraudulent signatures belonging to voters in Denver, Jefferson and Arapahoe counties on nominating petitions Keyser used to gain access to the June primary ballot.

“I appreciate law enforcement acting swiftly to apprehend this woman so justice can be served,” Keyser said in a statement after Moss had been taken into custody.

The spokesman for one of Keyser’s four rivals in the June 28 Republican primary pointed a finger at Keyser.

“It is unfortunate that Jon Keyser exercised no due diligence in hiring this individual who apparently collected fraudulent signatures to get him on the ballot,” Dick Wadhams, manager of Jack Graham’s campaign, told The Colorado Statesman.

“It’s good to hear that responsibility is being assumed in the forged signature debacle,” said Rachel Keane, a spokeswoman for candidate Robert Blaha.

Thirty-four voters confirmed to investigators that they hadn’t signed the Keyser petitions circulated by Moss, according to court documents.

Secretary of State Wayne Williams, whose office handles petitions submitted by state candidates and groups supporting ballot measures, took the occasion to warn petition gatherers about submitting fraudulent signatures.

“Currently, circulators are collecting signatures throughout Colorado on behalf of unaffiliated candidates and proposed ballot measures,” Williams said. “Circulators should be aware it is illegal to forge or falsify names and that we will work with and support district attorneys with prosecution.”

Under Colorado law, Arapahoe County District Attorney George Brauchler told The Statesman last month, any person who “forges any name of a person as a signor or witness to a petition or nomination paper” commits the crime of forgery, a class five felony punishable by up to three years imprisonment, or up to six years in extraordinary cases, and a fine of up to $100,000.

Brauchler and Jefferson County District Attorney Pete Weir coordinated with Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrisey in order to consolidate the prosecution, a spokeswoman for prosecutors said.

The possibility Moss might have forged signatures on the petitions was first brought to light by liberal activist organization ProgressNow Colorado, which discovered that a voter had supposedly signed petitions for two U.S. Senate candidates but noticed the signatures didn’t match. Denver7 reporter Marshall Zelinger uncovered 10 voters who said they hadn’t signed Keyser’s petitions after confirming the signature tabbed by ProgressNow appeared to have been a forgery.

Since then, the forgery allegations have dogged Keyser’s campaign. Video of Keyser responding to questions about the petitions gained national attention. Later, a group of voters represented by a prominent Democratic attorney filed a lawsuit to keep votes for Keyser from being counted, but a judge dismissed that last week, saying the plaintiffs had waited too long to file it.

ProgressNow political director Alan Franklin formally asked prosecutors to investigate the allegations on May 12, and officials confirmed later that week that a probe had been initiated.

“We are pleased that our request for a criminal investigation of Jon Keyser’s forged petition signatures has resulted in felony charges,” Franklin told The Statesman on Wednesday. “It’s past time for Keyser to stop passing the buck and take responsibility for the criminal actions of his campaign. Colorado voters must have confidence that no one can succeed in electoral politics as a result of fraud.”

According to court documents, investigators interviewed employees at Black Diamond Outreach, the Denver company hired to collect petitions for the Keyser campaign and Moss’s employer earlier this year. Petition circulators working for the firm used iPad Minis outfitted with specialized software, employees said, including a tracking device so the company could determine whether circulators were, in fact, making the rounds.

Moss was paid a bonus of $232 for her work on the Keyser petition, collecting $2 for every signature she gathered over 20 in a day, court documents said. She made $12-$14 hourly on the job.

James Rankin, a manager at Black Diamond Outreach, told investigators that a notary had noticed something “fishy” about the M’s in Moss’s petitions and brought it to his attention. Rankin agreed that two M’s looked “fishy,” so he pulled the petitions gathered by Moss to examine them but didn’t think there was a problem.

Field director Justin Card, who was Moss’s direct supervisor when she was collecting Keyser signatures, said he had confronted Moss after the notary had noticed a pattern in the signatures she had gathered and wanted to give Moss an “opportunity to come clean.” Moss remained “cool as a cucumber,” Card told investigators, and roundly denied she had done anything improper, even after he impressed upon her the legal ramifications for forging signatures. He said he believed her and kept an eye on her but that no other “red flags” arose.

It was only the first time that higher-ups were alerted that there might be problems with the signatures Moss had gathered.

After Keyser’s petitions had been submitted to the secretary of state’s office, document specialists notified election officials that a Broomfield woman whose signature appeared on a page submitted by Moss had died two months before she’d supposedly signed the document. Two days later, election officials were alerted that signatures on petition pages gathered by Moss appeared to have been written in the same handwriting.

Two employees in the secretary of state’s office examined the pages of signatures brought to their attention but concluded it didn’t appear that any had been forged, a spokeswoman for Williams said.

Williams and other supervisors in the secretary of state’s didn’t learn about the suspicions until a month after employees in his office had looked into the allegations, prompting a change to department policy.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney who represents Broomfield said Wednesday that no one had filed a complaint, so prosecutors weren’t investigating potentially fraudulent signatures gathered there.

Keyser, a former state lawmaker, is one of four Republican Senate candidates who qualified for the primary ballot by petition.

El Paso County Commissioner Darryl Glenn was the only Republican to emerge out of the caucus and assembly process, winning top line on the primary ballot.

In order to petition onto the primary ballot, GOP Senate candidates had to gather 1,500 valid signatures from Republicans in each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts. Graham, a former NFL quarterback and CSU athletic, was the first to turn in his petitions, a week before the April 4 deadline, and his were also the first to be approved by the secretary of state’s office. Keyser and Blaha, a Colorado Springs businessman, had to obtain court orders reversing initial Williams rulings that they’d come up short. Former Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier lost his first court appeal seeking a similar ruling but, after a detour through the Colorado Supreme Court, also wound up making the ballot.

The winner of the June 28 primary will face Bennet, who is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

ernest@coloradostatesman.com

This story has been updated to include a comment from the Robert Blaha campaign.

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