Suffolk County prosecutors have begun a criminal investigation into allegations that the campaign of a Democratic challenger to US Representative Katherine Clark submitted fraudulent nomination signatures, officials with knowledge of the probe say.
Revere officials submitted complaints last month to Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s office, which oversees state elections, that Sheldon Schwartz’s campaign had filed the fake signatures. One of the signatures, people familiar with the investigation said, was a counterfeit version of the city clerk’s — whose legitimate signature is affixed to numerous official city documents.
Because the name and signature of the clerk, Ashley E. Melnik, areso common in city literature, their use was starkly noticeable, people familiar with the case said.
Schwartz said Monday he was unaware of any investigation into his campaign but that he had hired someone to collect signatures in Revere. It was unclear whether Schwartz himself was a target of the probe.
“We handed in real signatures,” Schwartz said. “We hired people to get real signatures.”
“If a signature is not accurate, then I have absolutely nothing to do with it,” he added.
Galvin’s office deemed the matter a potential criminal matter and relayed the complaints to Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, whose office declined comment Monday.
State election law calls for fines up to $1,000 and a prison sentence of not more than one year for those found guilty of knowingly filing falsified nomination papers.
Revere officials were tight-lipped about the allegations.
“Nothing that I want to share,” replied Diane R. Colella, the city’s election commissioner, when asked whether she knew anything of the investigation.
Colella later called a Globe reporter back and said, “It is under investigation and I’ve been advised not to say anything.”
Schwartz, a 67-year-old doctor from Lexington, is considered a heavy underdog against Clark, who was elected last year to fill the seat left vacant when Edward J. Markey was elected a US senator to succeed Secretary of State John F. Kerry.
But Schwartz has begun spending heavily on the campaign, telling the Globe last week that he had shelled out close to $200,000 of his own money during the last quarter, building field and communications teams. Schwartz said he plans to spend between $600,000 and $750,000 in his challenge to Clark.
He said he did not collect any outside donations last quarter.
The prospect of a challenge appears to have Clark’s campaign sufficiently concerned for it to commission a recent poll on the race.
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