Investigation Reveals Operations of ‘Powerful’ Yuma County Democrat Who Admitted to Ballot Harvesting
An undercover video at the polls helped investigators disrupt a local ballot harvesting operation run by a democratic operative in Arizona, in a scheme that prosecutors have described as a “modern day political machine seeking to influence the outcome” of a 2020 municipal election.
Guillermina Fuentes, a former mayor of San Luis, and her associate Alma Juarez, earlier this year both pleaded guilty to one count of ballot abuse. Fuentes admitted to illegally collecting early ballots from four persons who were not her family members during a Aug. 4, 2020, primary election in the border town of San Luis.
Fuentes, of Yuma County, is the owner of a local construction business, a board member of the Gadsden Elementary School District, former mayor of San Luis, Arizona, and a Democratic precinct committee person.
Investigators noted that Fuentes had apparently used her “powerful” position in the community to get locals to hand over their ballots to her or others for them to drop off at the ballot box, according to records of the Arizona attorney general office obtained by The Epoch Times through a public records request.
The Arizona attorney general office’s investigation of Fuentes began after it received a notice from the Yuma County Sheriff’s Office of a potential case of voter fraud.
During primary election day in 2020, Gary Snyder, then a write-in candidate for City of San Luis council member, went undercover to record a video that seems to show Fuentes to be collecting and filling out ballots beside a polling station, according to a special investigation report dated Oct. 27, 2020, and prepared by Agent William Knuth of the Arizona attorney general’s office.
David Lara, former vice chairman of the Yuma County GOP, told The Epoch Times that he collaborated with Synder and passed the video evidence on to the Yuma County Sheriff’s office for investigation. The sheriff’s office worked with the Arizona attorney general’s office in a joint investigation.
“A group of subjects, led by Guillermina Fuentes were seen on video manning a table and appearing to be supporting particular candidates,” Knuth’s investigation report reads. “A female identified as Alma Juarez approached the table and made contact with a second female identified as Guillermina Fuentes. Fuentes is ultimately observed taking a ballot from Juarez.”
Fuentes admitted in her guilty plea that the early ballots were later provided to Juarez. Juarez pleaded guilty in March to one count of ballot abuse, a misdemeanor with a maximum sentence of six months with probation available, according to Juarez’s plea agreement.
“In the video, it is clear that the ballot envelope was unsealed. Fuentes was observed to pick up a pen or pencil and write on the ballot envelope. She then pulls the ballot out of the envelope and makes three marks consistent with the filling in of spaces on a ballot to make a candidate selection. Fuentes put the ballot back in the envelope and sealed it. She then retrieved several more ballot envelopes from a folder on the table and handed them to Juarez. Juarez then walks toward the polling,” the report continued.
Agent Knuth then contacted Juan Guerrero, a Justice of the Peace in Yuma County. Guerrero said he “believed a group of influential subjects, including Fuentes, is exchanging money for the ballots of community members,” according to the report.
One of the people interviewed by investigators described Fuentes as a “powerful” figure in the San Luis community, a status she exploited to allegedly engage in ballot harvesting on other occasions.
Agent Knuth interviewed Monica Corral, who said she was employed by Fuentes at Fuentes’s construction company from August 2016 to January 2017.
“Corral stated that during the time leading up to the 2016 general election, she was given envelopes which she determined contained money. Fuentes informed her who would come to pick up the envelopes, and at the time of pick up would either leave a ballot or provide a time when Fuentes could come pick up their ballot,” Knuth’s report stated.
“Corral stated that the majority of the envelopes dropped off at the business were unopened, as if they were just received in the mail,” the report continued, adding that Corral estimated more than fifty ballots were dropped off.
“Testimony of Monica Corral establishes a pattern and history of collecting ballots and in some cases providing monetary compensation for those ballots. Corral’s statement also explains that Fuentes has continued to be allowed to engage in suspicious activity regarding ballots without question due to her “powerful” position in the San Luis community,” the report said.
Agent Knuth collected statements from community members in San Luis and found that these statements “support the theory that individuals canvass neighborhoods in San Luis and solicit ballots.”
‘Hundreds of Communities’
Catherine Engelbrecht, the founder of election integrity group True The Vote, previously told The Epoch Times that the Arizona attorney general’s investigation, which led to the indictments of Fuentes and Juarez, showed that this issue is “getting a broader look.”
Engelbrecht described similarities between Fuentes’s case and the recent case of a Texas woman who pleaded guilty to 26 counts of voter fraud in a “vote harvesting” operation.
“This is not about one renegade person harvesting ballots,” she said, referring to the Texas woman. “It’s happening in hundreds of communities all over the country.
“And this is just one front of a thousand front wars on our elections.”
She added: “So we, the American 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.”
The punishment for Fuentes’s felony conviction ranges from probation to two years in prison.
Fuentes was scheduled to be sentenced by the court on June 30, according to the June 2 press release on the Arizona AG’s website. The Court then vacated the sentencing hearing and scheduled a mitigation hearing for Fuentes in September.
Prosecutors are seeking a jail term of one year, according to a July 6 court filing.
In a statement to The Epoch Times, Fuentes’s attorney Anne Chapman said “Fuentes has requested a mitigation hearing because the State’s request for a year in prison is clearly excessive.”
Snyder, who filmed the undercover video that led to the investigation into Fuentes and is a Republican candidate running for a seat at the Arizona State Senate, told News 11 that the sentencing’s delay is a “tragedy of our judicial system.”
“Once she’s a felon, which she already said she was, there’s no compromise,” Synder said.
News 11 reported that the delay was the third time the sentencing for this case has been postponed.
Fuentes previously told The Epoch Times that the charge was a result of “political witchcraft” and that her political opponents “hated” her.
Her attorney Chapman previously described Arizona’s ballot abuse law as a part of race-based “ongoing anti-democratic, state-wide, and national voter suppression efforts.”
The Epoch Times has reached out to the Arizona attorney general’s office for comment.
A previous version of this article misstated Gary Snyder’s position in 2020. He was a write-in candidate for council member at the City of San Luis. The Epoch Times regrets the error.
Gary Bai is a reporter for Epoch Times Canada, covering China and US news.