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Campaign signature-collector charged with forgery

A signature-gatherer hired by the Democratic challenger to US Representative Katherine Clark is facing 16 counts of forgery and filing false nomination papers after he allegedly falsified more than 100 signatures, including that of the Revere city clerk, Suffolk County prosecutors said on Friday.

Joseph Curran, 25, of Revere will be arraigned on Aug. 25 in a magistrate session of Suffolk Superior Court, said a spokesman for District Attorney Daniel F. Conley.

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Curran was working for candidate Sheldon Schwartz. “The candidate has been cooperative throughout the investigation and has not been charged,” said Jake Wark, the DA’s spokesman.

Reached Friday by telephone, Curran declined to comment.

Officials familiar with the investigation said that one of the signatures in particular tipped off Revere election officials that something may have been amiss with Schwartz’s nomination papers. The legitimate name and signature of the city clerk, Ashley E. Melnik, are in widespread use on official municipal literature, and widely recognizable.

Revere officials submitted complaints in June to Secretary of State William F. Galvin’s office, which oversees elections, that Schwartz’s campaign had filed the fake signatures. Galvin’s office deemed the matter criminal and turned it over to Suffolk County investigators.

Wark said that 16 nomination papers, bearing varying numbers of names, were deemed fraudulent.

Schwartz said last month that he first learned of the investigation and possible fraud when the Globe called him, reiterating on Friday that he had “nothing to do with it.”

“I’m not sure why he did it, and I don’t know he could be so stupid as to put down the name of the town clerk,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said he met Curran at a Panera Bread in Wilmington in April for an introductory meeting, where they discussed the campaign.

“He had a sandwich,” Schwartz said.

Afterward, he said, Curran “didn’t seem very organized.”

Schwartz said his Washington-based campaign strategists hired Curran and paid him $3,000 to collect signatures.

State law calls for a fine of up to $1,000 per count and a prison sentence of not more than one year for those found guilty of knowingly filing falsified nomination papers. Forgery draws a maximum of 10 years in state prison.

Schwartz, 68, a doctor from Lexington, is considered a heavy underdog against Clark, a fellow Democrat who was elected last year to fill the Fifth District seat vacated when Edward J. Markey was elected US senator to succeed John F. Kerry, who was named US secretary of state.

Jim O’Sullivan can be reached at Jim.OSullivan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JOSreports.
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