FBI probing election fraud, Facebook tampering

This+screen+capture%2C+allegedly+from+a+Facebook+conversation+between+CSUSM+frathernity+members%2C+was+sent+to+the+media+in+early+May.

This screen capture, allegedly from a Facebook conversation between CSUSM frathernity members, was sent to the media in early May.

MELISSA MARTINEZ
STAFF WRITER

The university has confirmed that the FBI is now investigating junior Matt Weaver, who was arrested on March 15 on suspicion of committing election fraud by stealing more than 700 student passwords in his campaign for president of Associated Students Inc.

Margaret Lutz Chantung, a public information officer for CSUSM, referred all questions about the case to Darrell Foxworth, a spokesman for the San Diego office of the FBI. Reached by phone on Monday, Foxworth declined to comment, saying it would be premature to discuss the case.

Since Weaver’s arrest the day before election results were to be announced, two key pieces of evidence have become part of the FBI investigation —- screen capture images, purported to be Facebook conversations between students during the elections March 12-15. The Facebook images were distributed to local news media via email on March 19.

The sender, who identified himself only as “Chris,” implied that the Facebook pages showed some candidates up for re-election were running together illegally as a “slate,” had advance access to the vote tallies and were spreading “nasty lies” about Weaver (who was then the associate editor of the controversial student publication, The Koala).

Lutz Chantung said she is aware of the Facebook images but could not comment on them because they’re part of the federal investigation. She also would not comment on whether the Facebook images may be fabricated, whether any students’ Facebook identities were stolen or whether any other students besides Weaver are under investigation.

She did say there that there is no evidence that any students were found to have run on a slate (according to election code, a slate is defined as two or more people publicly running together). She also stated she is not aware of any violations of election code by faculty.

The images on the Facebook pages show an alleged dialogue between several members of the on-campus fraternity Sigma Alpha Epsilon, some of whom were running for office. In the email to the press, “Chris” suggested that SAE members would use any means to defeat candidates (including Weaver) from the off-campus fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon, which lost its CSUSM designation in 2008.

A member of SAE, who asked to remain anonymous, confirmed as authentic the Facebook screen capture showing SAE members talking about the vote on their private group page, but he believes the second screen capture mentioning Matt Weaver was fabricated. He never saw the second conversation published on the group page.

Scott Silviera, who was running for the office of ASI president and is a member of SAE, said that all of the candidates were working hard to get out the vote during election week, but there was no “slate” of candidates and there were no violations of the election code.

“My understanding was that everyone was campaigning as hard as they could to try and get as many people to vote as possible,” he said. “There was no outside help of any kind, at least in my specific campaign as to run an election altogether or to beat any other candidates.”

When Weaver was arrested, he had in his possession a device typically used to capture students’ online log-ins. A subsequence investigation found that more than 700 students’ accounts had been compromised, Lutz Chantung confirmed.

Weaver was arrested on the final day of the elections (where all voting is done online). The next morning, the university declared the elections invalid, and rescheduled them for May. Weaver was jailed on election fraud, unlawful access to a computer or database, and 10 counts of identity theft. He posted $50,000 bail the following day, according to court records.

Lutz Chanting said she wants to assure students that the process for online voting in the ASI elections —- which have been rescheduled for May —- are “very safe.”

“I hope that students have faith in it because if it weren’t for the fact that IITS (Instructional & Information Technology Services) was monitoring what was going on, this wouldn’t have been discovered in the first place … Students should be assured that this election will be upheld to high standards.”

Photo: This screen capture from a Facebook conversation between members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity appears to show some knowledge of the votes in the ASI elections before the polls closed. This image, provided to the media by an anonymous source, is one of two being used as evidence in an FBI investigation. The students’ names and profile photos have been obscured to protect their identities.

The Cougar Chronicle The independent student news site of California