An investigation into voter fraud has apparently widened throughout Miami-Dade after a Hialeah woman was been arrested for allegedly illegally collecting at least 31 absentee ballots in the August 14 local election.
Deisy Penton de Cabrera, 56, was pulled over on July 25 after a tip from a private investigator prompted detectives to follow her as she collected ballots from various Hialeah residences and delivered them to a local post office. Investigators said that between stops, Cabrera was also spotted submitting a stack of absentee ballot request forms at the Miami-Dade Elections Department.
Police were tipped off to Cabrera's activities by private investigator Joe Carrillo, who met with police July 23 after filming Cabrera and a second woman collecting ballots. He turned over to detectives a business card with Caberra's name on it, on the back of which was scrawled in handwritten Spanish, "When the ballots arrive, call me because I work all the elections."
According to the arrest warrant, one of the locations to which a detective followed Cabrera was a nursing home, where she visited an elderly and ill woman referred to a "Z.G." Cabrera was overheard informing Z.G. that Z.G.'s sister had sent her to collect Z.G.'s signature, but when police tried to interview Z.G. immediately following the visit they found her unresponsive, uncommunicative, and unaware of her surroundings due to illness.
Police reported finding a note written at the top of Z.G.'s ballot reading, "The lady who is my sister signed this way because I have arthritis... it's hard for her to sign. Thanks." Z.G.'s sister Olga Gomez told police that Cabrera had helped her fill out her own ballot before leaving with Z.G.'s ballot, but that it had been blank and Gomez did not write the note.
Nineteen ballots dropped off by Cabrera were recovered at a local post office, according to the arrest warrant, and an additional 12 were found in Cabrera's car.
One senior Hialeah resident told Local 10 that Cabrera had tried to sway him to vote for current Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who is up for re-election. Another woman told El Nuevo Herald that Cabrera filled out ballots for her and her husband twice last year and offered to move them up a public housing waiting list.
The Miami Herald reports Cabrera was seen in the building that houses the Republican Mayor's Hialeah campaign office and has been photographed at Gimenez events, but the Mayor and his consultants have denied she is on the payroll.
Carrillo has refused to tell the State Attorney’s Office, which has opened its own investigation into the case, who hired him to investigate Cabrera, according to Local 10.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle indicated in a statement released Monday that the fraud is likely far-reaching.
“We intend to thoroughly investigate all ballot related matters, including the additional complaints from other parts of Miami-Dade County that have been forwarded to us and the police,” she said in a statement.
UPDATE, August 3 10 a.m.: Fernandez Rundle recused herself from the case Thursday, as first reported by Crespo Gram. In a statement, she said:
"Unsubstantiated allegations have recently been brought to my attention that a person who has been assisting in my campaign was alleged to have been seen in the company of this defendant. I am therefore taking this action to avoid even the possibility that my pending election will cause any distraction to the prosecution of this case."