Larry Ealy, a Trotwood man running for governor, denies he committed voter fraud on petitions he circulated to get a spot on the May primary ballot.
On Friday the Montgomery County Board of Elections forwarded to the county sheriff’s office a complaint alleging possible fraudulent signatures on parts of 10 petitions passed by Ealy, Keith Belluardo of Dayton, and Jody Lane and Bruce Black, both of whom live with Ealy in Trotwood. The four are the only ones who passed petitions for him, Ealy said.
“I don’t know about any fraud here,” Ealy said.
He said he had more than enough valid signatures to meet the 1,000 signature threshold required for major party candidates so there would have been no reason for him to falsify the names on his nominating petitions.
“Why would anyone do this? It’s just doesn’t add up,” said Ealy, 51.
On Tuesday Ealy was certified to run in the May Democratic primary against Ed FitzGerald, the Cuyahoga County administrator. Ealy turned in 1,385 valid signatures on nominating petitions circulated in 16 counties, said Matt McClellan, spokesman for Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted. Another 2,161 signatures were found to be invalid. It is unclear what impact the investigation or any possible charges would have on Ealy’s position on the ballot, but Montgomery County Board of Elections Deputy Director Steve Harsman said it is likely Ealy would remain in the running.
Harsman said the questioned petitions were flagged due to similarities in the handwriting, making it appear that one person signed names rather than the individual’s whose names appear on the petitions.
Falsifying signatures on the petitions is a fifth degree felony with a potential of six to 12 months in prison and a $2,500 fine, said Greg Flannagan, spokesman for Montgomery County Prosecutor Mathias H. Heck Jr.
Belluardo, 47, also denied wrongdoing. He examined the questioned petitions and said they were not familiar to him. In 2008 Belluardo was charged with 10 felonies in a separate election fraud case for which he was given treatment in lieu of conviction. Belluardo successfully completed the intervention, Flannagan said.
That case related to Belluardo claiming to live at an address in Moraine that no longer existed. Belluardo was accused of voting or attempting to vote using that address in 2004, 2006, 2007 and 2008. Court records show Belluardo pleaded guilty to 9 counts and all action was stayed pending his completing of the drug treatment program. After he did so the case was dismissed in 2010.
Belluardo said on Thursday denied wrongdoing in that case. He said he had to move out of his mobile home when the trailer park was closed and then he was homeless and used his former address for voting purposes. Belluardo is now fighting the settlement reached in that case, court records show.
Lane and Black could not be reached for comment.