More arrests in Miami-Dade scandal

BY Advocate.com Editors

August 20 2002 12:00 AM ET

Anthony Verdugo, chairman of the Florida Christian Coalition and a board member of antigay group Take Back Miami-Dade, was arrested Friday and charged with one count of falsely swearing that he had witnessed the signing of a petition calling for a ballot measure to repeal a 1998 ordinance that prohibits discrimination against gays, according to The Miami Herald.

Ralph Patterson, a Miami-Dade notary public, was also arrested Friday on a charge of illegally notarizing his own signature on a petition. Investigators said a third person was expected to be arrested Sunday in an ongoing investigation of how opponents of Miami-Dade County's gay rights amendment have been gathering signatures for a ballot measure that will be voted on September 10. John Aguero, special prosecutor from Polk County who is handling the yearlong investigation into allegations of forged signatures and other petition irregularities, would not identify the third person but said that individual will also be charged with falsely notarizing a petition document.

On Thursday 17-year-old Christian Montoya was arrested on a charge of falsely swearing that he saw someone sign such a petition. Montoya will be arraigned in juvenile court Monday.

Verdugo told the Herald Saturday that the arrests are a ploy to embarrass Take Back Miami-Dade and are part of "a vast left-wing conspiracy by corrupt enemies of the democracy."

No to Discrimination/SAVE Dade, the group fighting to keep the amendment, called Verdugo's claim outrageous. "They lied to voters to get the signatures, they falsified additional signatures, they manipulated the system to get the investigation moved to another prosecutor, and now they claim to be victims of the prosecutor they chose?" SAVE Dade chairwoman Heddy Pena said. "It's outrageous that they would claim to be victims after perpetrating one fraud after another."

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