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Politics

Man charged with forging nominating petition signatures

| Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Allegheny County police charged a Mt. Washington man with forging six signatures on a nominating petition for district judge candidate Michael Diven, a former state representative whose previous staffers faced similar charges.

Dominic Ceraso, 23, faces six counts of impersonating another in an application for registration and six counts of making false signatures in nomination petitions, according to a criminal complaint signed Monday by District Judge Randy Martini.

"Multiple signatures on the document appeared similar and forgery was suspected," the complaint states.

Police interviewed six people whose names appeared on Diven's nominating petitions. All six denied signing the petition. The petitions list addresses for each person that are less than a mile from Ceraso's address.

Diven, 39, of Brookline is challenging City Councilman Jim Motznik, 45, Overbrook for the seat being vacated by District Judge Charles McLaughlin of Brookline. Motznik protested Diven's candidacy after he noticed the signatures appeared to be similar to Ceraso's.

"My opponent hand delivered a letter to the district attorney asking them to investigate this guy. I think this is steeped in politics," Diven said. "I think this kid is collateral damage by a desperate opponent."

Diven said he instructed his campaign staff to "go by the book." He said he had nothing to do with gathering the suspect signatures.

Ceraso could not be reached

A judge ruled in March that Diven could remain on the ballot because Diven had enough valid signatures in spite of the apparent forgeries.

This isn't the first time Diven's nominating petitions have met with legal troubles.

In 2008, former political consultant Mark Zabierek was fined $10,000 and ordered to serve two years' probation after he pleaded guilty to forging the names of dead voters on Diven's nomination petitions for his unsuccessful state representative re-election race in 2006.

Debora Romaniello, Diven's chief of staff, received one year of probation in February 2007 after she admitted she signed off on Zabierek's petition.

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