Man Who Allegedly Collected Phony Recall Signatures Charged
Racine County DA files nine felony counts against 59-year-old Racine man after he is accused of forging signatures on a petition to recall state Sen. Van Wanggaard.
A man accused of falsely writing in signatures on a petition to recall state Sen. Van Wanggaard — including one from a deceased person — faces nine felony charges.
Mark Demet, 59, of Racine, has been charged by the Racine County District Attorney's Office with two felony counts of election fraud/nomination certification and seven felony counts of misappropriating identifying information for financial gain. If convicted on all charges, Demet faces up to 42 years in prison and fines up to $90,000.
According to the criminal complaint, Demet admitted that he circulated the petition and signed the names of seven people on the petition. Investigators spoke to six of the people whose names appeared on the list to verify that they had not signed the petition.
Demet is expected to make an initial court appearance at 1:30 p.m. on March 13.
Randy Brandt, treasurer for the Committee to Recall Van Wanggaard, said Demet might have been planted to discredit the recall effort, but the criminal complaint doesn’t address that issue.
“The charges imply that money was somehow involved, but no one on the Committee knows him and I know we didn’t pay him,” Brandt said. “But I’m glad that the whole process is unfolding as it should. Someone who allegedly is trying to circumvent the petition process should be charged with the crimes. And it’s a pretty serious crime.”
Still Brandt believes Demet is either some sort of renegade or had some other motive.
Brandt emailed the Racine County Sheriff’s Department earlier this month, explaining that the committee members did not know Demet. Brandt acknowledged it is possible “that a small number of fictitious signatures could have been submitted by people with their own motives, and without our detection.”
He requested that the Sheriff’s Department find out what Demet’s motive was for writing in the signatures, but the criminal complaint doesn’t address the issue.
Tea Party member identifies problem
Ironically, a Wisconsin Tea Party member put two and two together in identifying the falsified signatures.
Citizens for Responsible Government of Racine is a blog written by Ken Brown, who is an active Racine County Tea Party member. Brown said he has a business relationship with Jeff Demet, Mark's brother. When he saw Jeff Demet's name on the petitions, he believed that Jeff didn't sign the petition (his name was listed four times) because the two had talked about politics. So he called Jeff.
"(Jeff) was pretty mad," Brown said. "I asked him if he knew this guy, Mark. He said, 'Yeah, he's my crazy brother.'"
Brown said he also spoke with Jason Adams, and Nick and Holley Gabey, who are Mark Demet's neighbors. They also said their signatures were forged, so Brown turned over the information to the Racine County District Attorney's Office.
Brown said the Citizens for Responsible Government of Racine is affiliated with Milwaukee's Citizens for Responsible Government, which spearheaded the recall of Milwaukee County Executive Tom Ament.
Caledonia Patch called Mark Demet to get a statement, but his mother, Mary, said he was at work.
“I don’t think he wants to talk about this with anyone,” she said.
Demet also wasn't home when TMJ4 went to his house. The TV station aired a story last week about the irregularities on Demet's petitions.
Demet apparently tried apologizing yesterday to his neighbor Jason Adams for his actions.
But Adams wanted nothing to do with it, he said.
“It doesn’t make it right in my book,” Adams said. “… It’s pretty serious to me and it’s touched a pretty heavy chord.”