By Tim Skubick

LANSING (WWJ/AP) – Calling it a “mess” and a “fiasco” Michigan’s attorney general has charged four people following an investigation of fake and duplicate signatures on the nominating petitions submitted by then-U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter.

McCotter, a five-term Republican, turned in just 244 valid signatures out of 1,800 submitted in May.

McCotter aides Mary Turnbull, Lorianne O’Brady, Don Yowchuang and Paul Seewald are charged with fraud for their part in what AG Bill Schuette called a “cut and paste job that would make a fourth grade art teacher cringe” and give “Elmer’s Glue a bad name.”

Yowchuang is facing 17 charges, eleven of them felonies.

“They’d take petitions then Xerox them, copy them a couple of times to add to the numbers — that’s wrong,” Schuette said.

Schuette said his team has reviewed hundreds of documents and interviewed 75 witnesses in the case.  He said the same thing might have been done in 2008.

View a copy of the investigator’s report (.pdf format) –

The petition scandal knocked the Republican congressman off the ballot and led to his resignation on July 6.

Schuette says there was no specific, direct evidence of McCotter’s involvement, but said he was “asleep at the switch.” Schuette wouldn’t rule out more charges in the future if evidence is found.

McCotter released the following statement following Thursday’s announcement:

“I thank the Attorney General and his office for their earnest, thorough work on this investigation, which I requested, and their subsequent report. For my family and I, this closure commences our embrace of the enduring blessings of private life.”

A spokesman for McCotter said he would not be available for further comment.

The secretary of state’s office informed McCotter in May that he was about 1,000 valid signatures short of the threshold needed to get on the Aug. 7 primary ballot. McCotter’s campaign turned in 2,000 petition signatures, but reportedly not all of them were valid and some were duplicated. The Secretary of State’s office said McCotter’s campaign may have used signatures gathered in 2010.

The failure of the Livonia congressman to submit the needed signatures paved the way for tea party-backed Kerry Bentivolio to win the GOP nomination in Tuesday’s primary. He faces Democrat Syed Taj, a physician, in the Nov. 6 election.

Republicans had expected the 46-year-old McCotter, who mounted a quixotic presidential campaign last year, to win easy re-election in the conservative-leaning suburban Detroit district.

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(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2012 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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