A staffer for former U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor was indicted Monday on two felony counts of election fraud in connection with a scandal last year in which the Republican’s campaign helped an independent candidate collect signatures to get on the ballot.
A grand jury in Virginia Beach indicted Lauren Victoria Creekmore, also known as Lauren Peabody, on the two counts, according to online court records.
The indictments came nine months after Roanoke Commonwealth’s Attorney Don Caldwell was assigned as a special prosecutor. Caldwell issued a news release Monday saying that the investigation remains open and that Taylor had cooperated.
“As in most investigations, the [Virginia State Police] have enjoyed the full cooperation of some people, less than full cooperation of others, and no cooperation from a relatively small number,” Caldwell wrote. “ At this point in time, what actually happened within the campaign headquarters is still a subject of investigation due primarily to the lack of cooperation of key individuals with the VSP investigator. The full explanation of what happened will hopefully be answered in the months to come.”
The investigation stems from forged signatures Taylor staffers submitted to help get Shaun Brown on the November ballot in Taylor’s bid for a second term against Democrat Elaine Luria.
Brown qualified for the ballot as an independent but was removed by a Richmond circuit judge in a civil lawsuit brought by the Democratic Party of Virginia. The judge found “out and out fraud” in the signatures Taylor’s staff submitted to help Brown meet the ballot requirement.
The apparent motive of the Taylor campaign was to help Brown, a disaffected Democrat who had criticized her party, get on the ballot to dilute votes from Luria and cause a headache for the Democrats. But Taylor denied any knowledge of the fraudulent signatures, and said last year that he severed ties with a campaign consultant after learning of the allegations.
Among the fraudulent signatures were those of a dead man and a woman who had moved to Nevada. Signatures of Del. Glenn Davis, R-Virginia Beach, and his wife, Chelle Davis, also were forged.
Luria won the election and is now the representative from the 2nd Congressional District, which includes the Eastern Shore and parts of Norfolk.
Brown is now serving a three-year federal prison sentence in an unrelated fraud case.
“The special prosecutor’s release today makes it concretely clear, as I have maintained all along, I knew nothing about any illegal actions that transpired,” Taylor said in a statement. “Further it is entirely appropriate to hold those accountable for their actions in this matter.”
Caldwell wrote that his investigation “drew much of its initial information” from a September hearing in the Democratic Party’s lawsuit.
After Brown decided to run as an independent, he wrote, Taylor’s team decided around June 1 during a meeting in his office in Washington to help her get on the ballot. There does not appear to have been any directive to do anything illegal, Caldwell wrote.
At least four people who were paid by Taylor for campaign work helped gather signatures for Brown to get on the ballot. There was nothing illegal about the Taylor campaign helping Brown, but it turned out to be bad optics for Taylor once the fraudulent signatures were discovered.
Jake Rubenstein, a spokesman for the Democratic Party of Virginia, said in an email that the news “made it crystal clear: Scott Taylor’s campaign participated in a criminal forgery scheme to cheat the voters of a district Taylor represented. We are proud that our lawsuit was able to shed light into this clear attempt to undermine Virginia’s free and fair election process.”
Taylor said in his statement that the millions Democrats spent highlighting the case affected the election outcome, and said they falsely claimed in ads that he himself was under investigation.
“Today serves as a complete repudiation of the smears and lies leveled against me in the campaign last year. I was not ever aware of any wrongdoing by my campaign until the allegations came to light. Today’s release by the special prosecutor is complete vindication in that regard.”