Police: Pair tampered with local election email
The husband of a Sunapee school board member is one of two men facing charges for allegedly altering an email from a candidate running against his wife and forwarding the doctored version to voters in an attempt to discredit the competition just days before the election last March.
Joseph Furlong, 39, of Sunapee and Adam Gaw, 36, of Manchester were arrested Wednesday on charges including forgery and violating state election law, Sunapee police Chief David Cahill said Thursday.
“It’s alleged that these two altered the email from the person who originally sent it and then turned around and resent it,” Cahill said.
Cahill’s affidavit seeking arrest warrants for the two men describes the allegations.
Furlong denied having any role in the email scandal, Cahill wrote, but witnesses provided very different accounts of explanations of how a statement candidate Janice Bettencourt never made was inserted into an email she wrote about the upcoming election.
Cahill wrote in the affidavit that he compared copies of the original email and the altered version, finding “various revisions” and one statement that was entirely new. Investigators said the false statement was an attempt to make Bettencourt and fellow candidate April Royce look bad in the final days before the vote.
The altered email was sent the evening of March 4, 2016, during a basketball game many Sunapee residents attended, and word spread quickly among the crowd, according to the affidavit.
Bettencourt’s husband, Donald, went to police the next day, starting the investigation that eventually brought in the Attorney General’s Office once election fraud implications surfaced.
Cahill listed statements from witnesses who noticed the altered email and recalled varying accounts from Furlong as to who was behind it. More than one witness told Cahill that Furlong eventually admitted to altering the email after drinking too much wine. Witnesses also recalled Furlong frantically trying to resolve the growing controversy before his wife, Heather, found out.
Cahill said Furlong told him he didn’t know who was responsible for the altered email, but felt he was close to figuring out who was and assured the chief he would let him know as soon as he did.
Heather Furlong was elected to a two-year term with 622 votes, second among the three candidates seeking a pair of two-year posts. Bettencourt was a distant third with 341 votes.
Royce was running for a one-year term and easily won with 560 votes, twice as many as the second-place candidate.
Cahill declined to comment beyond what he wrote in the affidavit. Brian Buonamano, an assistant attorney general in the elections division, said the case was ongoing and also declined comment.
A telephone number listed for Gaw was disconnected and efforts to reach him were unsuccessful Thursday. A message left at a number for Furlong was not returned.
Cahill said both Furlong and Gaw were processed, then released on personal-recognizance bail Wednesday. Both men are scheduled to appear in Newport District Court on May 2.