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September 15, 2014

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Criminal charges filed against ACORN, two employees

Updated Monday, May 4, 2009 | 1:09 p.m.

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Catherine Cortez Masto

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller announced Monday that voter registration fraud charges have been filed against an organization that works with low-income people and two of its employees in its Las Vegas office.

The complaint includes 26 counts of voter fraud and 13 counts for compensating those registering voters, both felonies.

The Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, Inc., also known as ACORN, operated a Las Vegas office that helped register low-income voters last year.

Throughout 2008, ACORN employed canvassers to register people to vote in Nevada, the complaint said. ACORN paid the canvassers between $8 and $9 an hour, but made continued employment and continued compensation based on the canvasser registering 20 voters per shift. Those who failed to sign up 20 voters per shift were terminated, the complaint said.

From July 27 through Oct. 2 ACORN also provided additional compensation under a bonus program called "Blackjack" or "21+" that was based on the total number of voters a person registered.

A canvasser who brought in 21 or more completed voter registration forms per shift would be paid a bonus of $5.

The Blackjack program was created by employee Christopher Edwards, field director for the Las Vegas office. ACORN timesheets indicate that corporate officers of ACORN were aware of the Blackjack bonus program and failed to take immediate action to stop it.

Amy Busefink was ACORN's deputy regional director who was also aware of the Blackjack program and aided and abetted the scheme by approving Edwards' bonus program.

The investigation into the scheme stemmed from a complaint filed with Miller's office by Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax. Lomax's office received a significant number of voter registration application forms that appeared to be fraudulent, although none of the irregular forms ended up in the November election.

"Nevada will not tolerate violations of the law by individuals nor will it allow corporations to hide behind or place blame on their employees when training manuals clearly detail, condone and, indeed, require illegal acts in performing the job for the corporation," Masto said during a media conference today.

"This investigation is the direct result of our aggressive response to those safeguards," Miller said, referring to a state task force formed in July.

State investigators, armed with a search warrant, sought evidence of voter registration fraud at ACORN's Las Vegas office on Oct. 7.

The investigation began in July, as soon as the task force formed.

Allegations that some registration applications were completed with false information, while other applications attempted to register the same person several times, led investigators to raid the office, Miller said at the time.

The Secretary of State's Office had provided 2,000 voter registration applications to ACORN, all for registering voters in Clark County.

The task force also seized eight computer hard drives and about 20 boxes of documents in the rain, related to ACORN's "Project Vote," the registration drive.

One ex-employee of ACORN, Jason Anderson, rose to a supervisor position in the voter registration program although he was a convicted felon and an inmate in a medium security facility in Las Vegas at the time, a 19-page affidavit said.

ACORN officials said they were stunned by the October raid because they had already identified and flagged suspicious registration forms to the Clark County Election Department, starting in July, according to Brian Mellor, senior counsel for Project Vote. ACORN forms were resubmitted to the state in September, he said.

ACORN had been the focus of heated denunciation by the Republican National Committee and the John McCain presidential campaign.

A call to the Las Vegas ACORN office was not answered.

"We commend the Secretary of State and Attorney General's offices for their work in this investigation," said Phoebe Sweet, director of communications for the Nevada State Democratic Party. "Clearly the system works, and fraudulent registrations were caught and disqualified. And today's action on the part of the Secretary of State and Attorney General will help ensure that unlawful quota systems that encourage fraud are not used in the future."

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