Nearly two years after getting the authority to prosecute voter fraud, Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach (R) announced Wednesday he had obtained his first conviction of a non-citizen who had voted.
Kobach, who has made the unsubstantiated claim that millions of non-citizens could be registered to vote across the country, said that Victor David Garcia-Bebek, had pleaded guilty to voter fraud and illegally voted in a 2012 special and general election, as well as a 2014 general election. Under a plea agreement reached with Kobach’s office, Garcia-Bebek agreed to pay a $5,000 fine and be placed on unsupervised probation for up to three years. The probation will end once he pays the fine.
The Wednesday announcement marked just the eighth time Kobach has convicted someone in Kansas of voter fraud since gaining the ability to prosecute in 2015. Kobach had pushed for prosecutorial authority, arguing he needed it to crack down on voter fraud. However, from 1997 to 2010, there were only 11 confirmed cases of it in Kansas. There were 1,788,673 registered voters in the state as of March, according to the Kansas City Star.
“The problem of non-citizens voting is a serious one, both in Kansas and nationally. Every time a non-citizen votes, it cancels out the vote of a United States citizen,” Kobach said in his announcement.
During a February interview on Fox Business Network, Kobach cited an unnamed “expert” as saying as many as 18,000 non-citizens could be on the voting rolls in Kansas, but conceded that he believed only a fraction of that number were actually voting in elections.
Kobach told the Kansas City Star that officials discovered Bebek had voted illegally after he became a naturalized citizen in February and was offered the opportunity to vote. He did choose to register, but when election officials went to enter his information, they found he had already voted.
Garcia-Bebek did not immediately return a request for comment. According to the athletics website at Newman University, he coached the women’s soccer team there for four years before resigning in 2015, eight games into the season due to personal reasons.
“I pride myself on being able to have close relationships [with coaches] but I learned more about Victor after his resignation than I ever did before,” Vic Trilli, the school’s athletic director, told the Vantage after Garcia-Bebek resigned. “I had conversations with him, but it was hidden. A lot of personal things people don’t want to talk about because it’s personal and it hurts. It’s what led to this.”
Kobach, who has pushed one of the most restrictive voting laws in the country, quickly seized upon the conviction, suggesting that there was more voter fraud in the state.
“His conviction is just the tip of the iceberg. In that same county we know of 24 other aliens who registered to vote, some of whom voted and others attempted to register. But we can’t prosecute because the statute of limitations has run [out], the crime is more than five years old,” Kobach said during a Thursday interview on “Fox and Friends.”
“It’s a huge problem, not just in Kansas, but nationally. And we only see the very top of the sliver of the iceberg because it’s so hard to detect when you have a non-citizen on our voter rolls,” he added.
Several studies and investigations have shown that widespread voter fraud is not a problem nationally. Despite the lack of evidence, President Donald Trump has said that millions voted nationally and pledged a national investigation. The White House has also pointed to Kobach as someone who can provide evidence of voter fraud, and Kobach confirmed Thursday that he has advised the White House on the alleged widespread voter fraud.
In February, a Texas woman who was not a U.S. citizen was sentenced to eight years in jail for illegally voting in two elections. The woman, who said she did not know she was ineligible, is likely to be deported to Mexico.