Criminal charges filed in medical marijuana, direct primary ballot initiative signature gathering

OGDEN — Weber County prosecutors have filed criminal charges against two people accused of forging signatures in petitions to get medical marijuana and a direct primary election on the November ballot.

Felony forgery charges were filed against Emma Riches and Alexander Burke, accusing them of turning in packets with hundreds of forged signatures. The two were paid to gather signatures for the ballot initiative by a company called Gather.

“As election clerks began comparing the signatures on the petitions to the voter rolls they noticed that many of the signatures turned in by Emma and Alexander appeared to be forgeries. Emma and Alexander were interviewed and both admitted that they had forged numerous signatures that were in their packets,” prosecutors wrote in a probable cause affidavit filed with the charges. “Alexander turned in six packets that contained at least 120 signatures. Emma turned in 10 packets that contained at least
352 forged signatures. They were paid a total of $2,080.45 for the signatures
they collected.”

The two were given summons to appear in Ogden’s 2nd District Court in March and April. An attorney representing the two was not listed in court documents. Gather did not return a message seeking comment on Tuesday night.

Representatives for the two ballot initiative backers did not immediately comment on the charges.

Weber County Clerk Ricky Hatch said in an emailed statement his office has been vigilant against forgeries in ballot initiatives.

“I’ve been asked if we really review every signature in an election or a petition. Yes we do. Every county in the state looks at every signature, every time, whether it’s on a vote-by-mail envelope or in an initiative packet. Detailed controls such as these safeguard the integrity of our elections,” he wrote.