An Arizona woman has pleaded guilty to using her position in the Democratic Party to illegally harvest ballots in a ballot abuse scheme.
Guillermina Fuentes, the 66-year-old former mayor of San Luis, Arizona, pleaded guilty on June 2 to one count of ballot abuse for her role in an August 2020 primary election ballot harvesting scheme, according to the Arizona Attorney General’s office. Arizona attorney general’s office investigators said the operation was “sophisticated,” reported The Associated Press.
The scheme involved early ballots from other voters that were collected and deposited into a ballot box on primary election day, the office said.
Fuentes’s plea came as a result of an ongoing election fraud investigation conducted by the Arizona Attorney General office’s Election Integrity Unit. She was indicted in December 2020.
Fuentes, of Yuma County, is the owner of a local construction business, former mayor of San Luis, Arizona, and a Democratic precinct committee person.
She admitted to “knowingly” collecting early ballots from four persons who is not her family member, household member, or caretaker, or on or about Aug. 4, 2020, the day of the primary election, according to her plea agreement.
Fuentes further admitted that the early ballots were later provided to Alma Juarez, who pleaded guilty in January to one count of ballot abuse, a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months with probation available, according to Juarez’s plea agreement.
The former mayor will be sentenced on June 30.
Fuentes told The Epoch Times on Friday that the charge was a result of “political witchcraft” and that her political opponents “hated” her.
In a response to a press inquiry from The Epoch Times, Fuente’s attorney called Arizona’s ballot abuse law a race-based “ongoing anti-democratic, state-wide, and national voter suppression efforts.”
Tania Pavlak, a spokesperson from the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office, told The Epoch Times that the Sheriff’s office has not been involved in prosecuting Fuentes, as the Arizona Attorney General’s office and the county sheriff’s office are conducting separate and parallel investigations on voting fraud allegations in the state.
Pavlak said the sheriff’s office is conducting its own voter fraud investigation and currently has 16 open cases related to either the 2020 election or the 2022 primaries. She declined to comment on how many cases are related to either election.
The “pattern of fraudulent voter registration forms,” according to a May 11 statement made by the sheriff’s office, include impersonation fraud, false registrations, duplicate voting, and fraudulent use of absentee ballots.
May 11, 2022
YCSO & the Yuma County Recorder’s Office are working together to examine cases of voting fraud from the 2020 General Election & now a recent pattern of fraudulent voter registration forms leading up to the 2022 Primary Election. pic.twitter.com/m3iioHq3Xh
— Yuma Sheriff’s Office – AZ (@YumaSheriff) May 11, 2022
The spokesperson said the Yuma County Recorder’s Office detected a pattern of fraudulent voter registration, in which a number of people sent in duplicate forms or documents with false information on them, and referred the cases to the county’s sheriff.
“We already had been investigating these cases for the past few months and so the sheriff wanted to make sure we sent out that information with election season now hot and up and running. That way, people were aware of what was happening and also could stay vigilant,” Pavlak said.
“What they’re seeing is that there are registration forms that are being either falsified or people that are double registering with information that doesn’t match their current registration,” she added.
Ballot Harvesting Hearing
Fuentes’s guilty plea came two days after a hearing at the Arizona legislature where the state’s Senate and House lawmakers heard evidence and allegations pertaining to a state-wide ballot harvesting campaign during the 2020 presidential election.
Election integrity organization “True the Vote” at the hearing presented evidence of cell phone tracking data showing that more than 200 devices had visited ballot drop boxes in two of the state’s largest counties no less than 5,700 times during the 2020 election.
“When we started the project, we didn’t know [what we would find],” said Catherine Engelbrecht, the Texas group’s founder and president, at the May 31 hearing.
“We began to think through what is a realistic expectation or threshold for when going to a drop box is too many times. We wanted to focus on a clear, narrow data set [to demonstrate] extreme outlier behavior.”
The group’s investigators settled on 10 visits as outlier behavior—but in Arizona, they found that each alleged ballot harvestor went an average of 21 times each, Engelbrecht said.
In Yuma County, the study found 1,435 unique drop box visits by 41 target devices based on cell phone signals, or “pings.”
Lawmakers—all Republican—vowed to move forward with bill HB-2289 that would make ballot drop boxes illegal in Arizona.
“The only thing I would like to see come out of this meeting is people going to jail,” said State Rep. Quang Nguyen (R). “I would just like to see people cuffed.”
Engelbrecht told The Epoch Times on June 3 that the state attorney general’s investigation, which led to the indictments of Fuentes and Juarez, shows that this issue is “getting a broader look.”
“Based on our research, the ‘Arizona model’ is one that is followed across the country, and it involves national organizations,” she said, referring to alleged widespread ballot harvesting.
“So we, the Ameican people, need to continue the pressure on to continue investigations moving forward to get to the bottom of what’s happening, not just in Yuma County, Arizona, but in many counties across this country.”
Zachary Stieber and Allan Stein contributed to this report.