Arizona woman pleads guilty to ballot-collecting operation

Ann Arizona women Defendants accused of illegally collecting early ballots in the 2020 primary were dismissed on more serious counterfeiting and conspiracy charges and agreed with state prosecutors to limit the potential lengthy prison sentences. and pleaded guilty on Thursday.

Guillermina Fuentes, 66, said investigators with the Arizona Attorney General’s office used her position as a high-profile Democratic operative in the border city of San Luis to persuade voters to rally her and, in some cases, said it was a sophisticated strategy to replenish. Give out their ballots.

Prosecutors have filed three felony indictments, alleging that Fuentes filled in one voter’s ballot and forged signatures on some of the four ballots he illegally returned for people outside his family. appears to have been dropped, apparently failing to substantiate the most serious charges.

Republicans, who rally over the possibility of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election that defeated former President Trump, point to the accusations against Fuentes as part of a broader pattern in battleground states. There is no indication that illegal ballot collection went beyond small-town politics in which Fuentes was involved.

Fuentes and a second woman were charged in December 2020 with one count of ballot abuse, a practice commonly known as “ballot robbery,” which was made illegal under 2016 state law. indicted. Additional vote abuse charges against Conspiracy, Forgery, and Fuentes were added last October.

Fuentes said little during a change of judicial hearing in southwestern Arizona’s Yuma County on Thursday, admitting yes to the judge’s question, asking if he had read and understood the plea bargain agreement. I asked what

Fuentes, a former San Luis mayor of the city of San Luis and an elected board member of the Gadsden Elementary School District in San Luis, could be sentenced to up to two years in prison, which the judge finds aggravating circumstances. There is a need. In her plea bargain, her actual sentence rested with a judge, who gave her probation, house arrest, and illegally collected and returned her four ballots. You can impose hefty fines that you admit.

Judgment was set for June 30th. She loses her voting rights and has to give up her elected office.

Attorney Ann Chapman said in an email Thursday that she had no comment on the charges against her client.

However, she denounced Arizona’s ballot collection law, which she said was hindering minority voters who have historically relied on others to help them vote. It shows that the law is part of an ongoing anti-democratic, statewide and national voter suppression effort.”

Less than a dozen ballots could be linked to Fuentes, not enough to make a difference in all but the toughest local elections, according to the Attorney General’s Office investigation records obtained by the Associated Press through a public records request. There is none.

The office of Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovic, who is seeking the Republican Senate nomination, has provided the record after more than 15 months of delay.

This is the only lawsuit filed by the Attorney General under the 2016 “Vote Collection” Act, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

Investigators wrote that Fuentes appeared to have used his position as a powerful figure in the Mexican-American community to persuade people to get him or others to put their ballots back into the ballot. . Fuentes and her co-defendants were seen holding several mailing envelopes outside the Cultural Center in San Luis on the day of the 2020 primary election. was put in

She was videotaped by a writing candidate who called the Yuma County Sheriff. The video reportedly showed her casting at least one vote for her, one of which was hers, although the charges were dropped.

An investigation was launched that day, and about 50 votes were fingerprinted, but it was inconclusive. The investigation was handed over to the Attorney General’s Office within days, and investigators worked with the sheriff’s deputy to interview voters, Fuentes and others.

Fuentes was only charged with actions that appeared on videotape and involved only a handful of votes, but investigators believe the effort went much further.

Attorney General’s Office investigator William Cruz said in a report that there was evidence to suggest that Fuentes actively searched the San Luis area, collecting ballots and in some cases paying for them. I wrote that there are several.

Collecting ballots in this manner was a common method of voting for both political parties before Arizona passed a 2016 law. Paying for ballots was not legal.

There is no evidence that she or anyone else in Yuma County collected ballots in the general election, but agents from the Attorney General’s Office are still active in the community.

The Arizona Republic reported Tuesday that a search warrant was served on a San Luis nonprofit last month. The executive director of the group, who serves as chairman of the Yuma County Board of Supervisors, said the warrant seeks the mobile phone of San Helewis City Councilman who may have been involved in illegal ballot collection. said.

And at Tuesday’s legislative hearings where election conspiracy theorists testified, Yuma’s primary case was once again the highlight.

Yuma Republican Rep. Tim Dunn said, “It’s all about San Luis corruption and the distortion of the city council elections.” “This is the inability to hold free and fair elections in Southern counties for decades, and it’s spreading across the country.” Arizona woman pleads guilty to ballot-collecting operation

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