Signature Gatherers Bribed Skid Row Homeless People in ‘Large-Scale Voter Fraud Scheme,’ DA Says

Homeless people set up tarps and tents in downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row in May 2016. (Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Homeless people set up tarps and tents in downtown Los Angeles' Skid Row in May 2016. (Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Nine people are accused of various fraud charges after allegedly bribing homeless people on Skid Row with money and cigarettes to sign ballot measure petitions and voter registration forms, the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday.

The defendants allegedly solicited hundreds of false and/or forged signatures by offering homeless people $1 and/or cigarettes for their participation during the 2016 and 2018 cycles.

The charges include circulating a petition with false names, using a false name on a petition, registering a fictitious person and voter fraud.
Kirkland Kauzava Washington, 38, Harold Bennett, 53, and Louis Thomas Wise, 36, each face eight counts and six years and four months in prison if convicted.

Richard Howard, 62, Rose Makeda Sweeney, 42, Christopher Joseph Williams, 66, Jakara Fati Mardis, 35, Norman Hall, 61, and Nickey Demelvin Huntley, 44, each face four counts and four years and eight months in prison if charged.

Prosecutors recommended that bail be set at $25,000 for each defendant.

The arrests of the defendants were part of an LAPD crack down on voter fraud, according to the Los Angeles Times, and the FBI also investigated.

Howard, of Harbor City, had beeb sentenced to 60 days in jail on a similar charges, the Times reported, and charges were previously dismissed against Bennett and Wise.

Washington, of South Los Angeles, allegedly set up a card table in September outside the Midnight Mission in Skid Row to gather signatures.

“The message got sent this is not big deal,” Officer Deon Joseph, who patrols Skid Row told the newspaper. “They’ll go right back out and do the same thing.”