Three workers for City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo’s reelection campaign have been charged with forging signatures to get the incumbent on the ballot last spring.
Elbin Lopez, 49, Betty Julien, 47, and Luis Vargas, 45, were charged with forging nearly 100 signatures on petitions last June. Arroyo has said she had no knowledge of her employees’ actions.
The nine month-long investigation “uncovered no evidence of any criminal conduct by any other persons,” read a press release by Bronx DA Robert Johnson.
The petitions the trio submitted on behalf of Arroyo’s campaign included the names of celebrity athletes and actors, along with phony addresses, including one for a bank and another for a drug rehab program.
The suspects were released under their own recognizance after being arraigned before Criminal Court Judge Carole Sharpe on March 26.
In his testimony, Lopez stated that “there were many times when I would speak to someone who answered the door in a building and they would refuse to sign but after closing the door I would sign the ballot.” In addition, he admitted to having people sign even after they told him they didn’t live in the building.
Last September the Board of Elections eliminated over 2,000 signatures it said Arroyo’s staffers had forged or because the signer was not eligible to vote in the district, leaving only 640 valid signatures. Candidates are required to submit a minimum of 450 valid signatures to remain on the ballot.
Arroyo’s opponent for the council seat, Julio Pabon, challenged her candidacy during last summer’s campaign when members of his volunteer staff said they noticed irregularities in the signatures. The Board of Elections assigned a special referee, John D’Alessandro, to hear arguments for both sides.
After days of testimony from Arroyo, the three campaign workers and several witnesses who said their names had been forged, D’Alessandro said that the incumbent and her nephew, Richard Izquierdo, who worked with the campaign staff, “were negligent in the extreme in their supervision of the petition-gathering process” and had “admitted under oath to the equivalent of political campaign malpractice.”
But the referee dismissed Pabon’s argument that Arroyo should be held accountable for the forgeries and refused to eliminate her from the race, a decision that was later upheld by State Supreme Court Justice John W. Carter.