Burkett petitioners charged with fraud

Riverside County prosecutors charged a pair of overzealous petitioners from Burkett Petition Management this week with elections fraud after investigators found they may have used names from a phone book and forged signatures.

Capping a two-and-a-half year investigation, authorities arrested Remi Janee Haynes, 22, of Gardena, and her former roommate Taralyn Maria Bentley, 27, of Azusa, on Wednesday, according to Riverside County Superior Court documents.

“It’s a process that everybody expects to be on the up and up,” explained Ingrid Wyatt, a spokeswoman for the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office. “They’re supposed to be out legitimately seeking these signatures. But unfortunately sometimes they try to cut corners.”

If Burkett Petition Management sounds familiar to you, it should.

Based in Arizona, Burkett was named in an investigation by prosecutors in San Bernardino County targeting more than 3,000 possibly fraudulent voter registration cards in March 2006. Bill Postmus, then-chairman of the county Republican Party and Board of Supervisors, noted the cards appeared to be filled out by the signature gatherers.

Burkett surfaced again later that month when the company was caught in a flap over voter registration guidelines for a petition regarding law enforcement in the city of Rialto. In each case in San Bernardino County, Burkett denied wrongdoing.

In the Riverside case, Haynes and Bentley submitted the falsified petitions to Burkett Petition Management, according to prosecutors. Burkett alerted the Secretary of State’s Election Fraud Investigation Unit in April 2005.

Eighteen months later, Riverside County prosecutors took on the probe for another year.

Haynes and Bently were charged on Mar. 26 with 26 counts including placing fictitious names on an initiative petition, filing a false document and perjury. If convicted, they could be sentenced up to 11 years in state prison, prosecutors said.

Both defendants are scheduled to appear in Riverside Superior Court on April 29.

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