Presidential candidate Newt Gingrich (The Associated Press)

Gingrich’s campaign told state officials it had submitted 11,050 signatures. But a Richmond area firm hired to collect them turned in 1,500 signatures that appeared to be signed by the same person.

“We hired somebody who turned in false signatures,’’ Gingrich told reporters late last month while campaigning in Iowa. “We turned in 11,100 – we needed 10,000 – 1,500 of them were by one guy who frankly committed fraud.”

On Friday, a federal judge denied a request by the former House speaker and three other presidential candidates to add their names to the March 6 primary ballot.

Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, and former Utah governor Jon Huntsman Jr. had failed to qualify for the Virginia ballot and challenged qualification rules by suing the State Board of Elections and the state GOP.

U.S. District Judge John A. Gibney Jr. said the candidates should have challenged the rules months ago when they first realized that Virginia forbids out-of-state residents to collect signatures.

Only former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (Tex.) will appear on the Virginia primary ballot on Super Tuesday, March 6.

Virginia’s ballot-access rules are considered the toughest in the nation. Candidates must collect 10,000 signatures, with at least 400 from each of the congressional districts. Some other states only require candidates to pay fees or sign forms.

A poll released last month showed Gingrich with a slight lead over Romney among Virginia Republicans in the race for president. The Quinnipiac University poll showed Gingrich at 30 percent and Romney at 25 percent among Republican voters.