Voter fraud charges causing change in Independence Police Dept.

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by Doug Mouton / Northshore Bureau Chief

wwltv.com

Posted on January 11, 2010 at 6:56 PM

Updated Monday, Jan 11 at 9:20 PM

INDEPENDENCE, La. – The Independence Town Council is expected to name Frank Edwards III as the town's new police chief at a meeting Monday night.

Edwards is the brother of Tangipahoa Sheriff Daniel Edwards and State Rep. John Bel Edwards, and the son of former Tangipahoa Sheriff Frank Edwards Jr.

Edwards will take over for Anthony Maurer, who turned in his letter of resignation Thursday, January 7. The Town Council is expected to accept his resignation Monday night.

Maurer was elected police chief in February 2008, but is now being charged in a federal bill of information with illegally registering voters for that election.

The investigation began with complaints to the Metropolitan Crime Commission.

"A number of people from the Town of Independence called and came in," said Tony Radosti, the vice-president of the Metropolitan Crime Commission. "They were telling us about people being registered to vote in the city who were not residents."

Radosti said, information the MCC gathered was then turned over to the FBI, which led to the charges.

"Some of them were registered at his house," said Independence Mayor Michael Ragusa. "Some of them were registered at other places in town, apartments here in town, and they weren't living in those apartments."

Radosti described the illegal registration scheme as, "Very sloppy. It was so sloppy it was common knowledge."

Ragusa unseated longtime incumbent Phillip Damiano to become mayor of Independence in the same 2008 election in which Anthony Maurer is charged. When asked which races he believes Maurer was trying to influence, Ragusa said, "I'm sure it was to influence his race, and it may have been to insure the previous mayor."

Ragusa won the March 2008 runoff by 101 votes.

"A handful of votes can, in fact, change and impact an election," Radosti added. "And what the chief is charged with is depriving the individuals of that community of a fair and honest election."

Eyewitness News talked to former Chief Anthony Maurer on the phone Monday morning. Maurer said he has no comment on the investigation.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten wouldn't comment on the case Monday, but his office said, the investigation is on-going.

"I don't think it's done," Mayor Ragusa added. "I don't know who all will be charged, but I don't think it's done yet."

Radosti said, the fact that this is a Federal Bill of Information and not an indictment probably means either Maurer is cooperating with the feds, or he's ready to plead guilty.

The feds are prosecuting this case because the February 2008 election also including the presidential primary, making election fraud in this particular election a federal crime.
 

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