For release on February 6, 2013
Judy Lee, Deputy District Attorney
Public Integrity Unit
DALY CITY WOMAN CHARGED WITH FORGING PETITION SIGNATURES
A Daly City woman faces felony charges for submitting San Jose ballot initiative petitions with faked signatures, including the forged John Hancocks of prominent San Jose city officials.
Laura Frei, 55, will be arraigned at 1:30 p.m. today on charges of circulating a petition with false or forged signatures. If convicted, she faces up to three years of incarceration.
Some of the false signatures found by a District Attorney’s Investigation on a series of petitions for an increased minimum wage included City Manager Debra Figone, City Attorney Richard Doyle, several city council members and a deputy district attorney in this Office. An investigation confirmed at least 16 signatures were false. However,it is believed that up to 80 signatures, many of which are city officials, may also have been forged by Frei. Each of the petitions was signed by Frei as accurate under penalty of perjury.
“Frei’s conduct is an affront to our democratic process.’’ stated Deputy District Attorney Judy Lee. “This crime doesn’t just affect the individuals whose signatures were forged. It is also a crime against the public because it undermines voter confidence in the electoral process.”
The fake names surfaced at the end of March last year when a staff member of then-City Clerk Dennis Hawkins noticed his name on one of the petitions. Knowing Mr. Hawkins was unlikely to have signed the petition because of his position as the City Clerk, the city employee notified him. Hawkins confirmed that neither he nor his wife – whose name was alongside his own – had signed the petition. In fact, his name was used twice on two different petitions, his house number was wrong on one and his wife’s name was not properly hyphenated. An investigation showed that Frei had “collected” these signatures as a sub-contractor for H&H petitions in San Jose. She had been paid between $1,000 and $1,500 for a total of about 200 signatures.
A D.A. investigator interviewed 13 people about their signatures in the petitions. All denied having signed them.
The measure – aimed at raising the minimum wage in the city from $8 to $10 an hour beginning next year - qualified for the ballot with more than enough legal signatures needed to qualify and passed in the November 2012 election.