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DECISION 2000 / AMERICA WAITS

2 Who Allegedly Floated Hot 'Butterfly' Device Are Stung

November 17, 2000|SCOTT GOLD | TIMES STAFF WRITER

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Turns out those Florida butterfly ballots aren't just infamous--they're pricey too.

Florida law enforcement agents announced Thursday night that they have charged two men in the theft of a Palm Beach County voting machine--complete with its "butterfly" ballot. The men were hawking the machine on the Internet auction site Ebay.

"Two bright young men," Palm Beach County Judge Charles Burton, the chairman of the county's election canvassing board, said with a chuckle.

Theresa LePore, the county elections supervisor, learned of the Internet auction and contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which conducted a sting operation to arrest the two men.

An agent sent an e-mail to a man identified as Mark Bruce Richter, 43, of Lake Worth, Fla., and received his telephone number. Over the phone, police said, Richter demanded $20,000 for the now-infamous machine.

The agent, posing as a buyer, agreed to meet Richter. They met on a street corner at 5 p.m. Thursday and negotiated a price of $4,000 before agents arrested Richter and his companion, Steven Robert Solomon.

The machine, agents said, was stolen Nov. 9, two days after the election, from the Winston Trails Club House, a voting precinct. There is no evidence that any ballot cards were taken.

The men were in the Palm Beach County Jail on Thursday night, charged with unlawful possession of a voting machine and dealing in stolen property.

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