Pennsylvania governor-elect Josh Shapiro, who rose to prominence by downplaying Republican claims of voter fraud, charged one of his former campaign consultants on Wednesday with "wide scale" forgery of voter ballots.
Shapiro, in his capacity as Pennsylvania attorney general, alleges that Philadelphia political consultant Rasheen Crews duplicated more than 1,000 signatures on petitions to add his clients to Democratic primary ballots for Philadelphia city elections in 2019.
"By soliciting and organizing the wide scale forgery of signatures, the defendant undermined the democratic process and Philadelphians’ right to a free and fair election," Shapiro said in a statement announcing the charges.
The announcement of the indictment just a week after the gubernatorial election could raise questions for Shapiro, who was a strident critic of Republicans who cast doubt on the results of the 2020 election in Pennsylvania. According to an arrest affidavit, Shapiro’s office opened an investigation into Crews in September 2019. It is unclear why it took three years to bring charges against him.
Crews has consulted for dozens of state and local candidates over the years, campaign finance disclosures show. Shapiro’s attorney general campaign paid Crews $2,000 in 2016, according to the Pennsylvania campaign finance database.
Crews’s clients denied knowledge of the forgery scheme, according to the affidavit. Crews allegedly hired individuals to forge signatures to get his clients placed on Democratic primary ballots for municipal elections in Philadelphia. He had the ballot petitions notarized and then filed with the Pennsylvania Department of State.
James Berardinelli, who hired Crews to obtain signatures for a judicial campaign, told Shapiro’s office he was unaware that Crews had included forged signatures on his ballot petition.
At the federal level, Rep. Dwight Evans (D., Pa.) paid Crews $19,075 for a variety of services since 2016. The campaign paid Crews $800 in May to serve as a poll worker, according to filings with the Federal Election Commission. Evans hired Crews for grassroots organizing, "voter contact," and "petitions" in the 2016 and 2018 cycles. Evans was elected in a special election in 2016 to replace former Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Pa.), who resigned from Congress in June 2016 after his conviction on fraud and racketeering charges.
The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers’s Philadelphia chapter paid Crews $50,625 between 2014 and 2016, campaign disclosures show. The Department of Justice accused the union last year of waging an intimidation campaign against rank-and-file members since at least 2014 to force them to vote for incumbent union leaders.
The offices of Shapiro and Evans did not respond to requests for comment.