Election Fraud Plea Deal Leads To Disturbing Disclosures About Ballot Harvesting Investigation

ballot harvesters
Ballot harvesters operating in Yuma County. [Photo courtesy David Lara and Gary Garcia Snyder]

Prior to the August 2020 Primary Election, friends David Lara and Gary Snyder discussed ways to prove ballot fraud was being committed with impunity in the San Luis area of Yuma County. Their idea to set up hidden video cameras in a car outside two voting centers led Thursday to the second guilty plea involving an organized ballot harvesting operation.

So why isn’t Lara happier?

According to Lara, the fact two women have pleaded guilty to ballot abuse is good news. But he considers the punishment the two face -guaranteed probation for one and likely probation for the other- insufficient incentive for others in the community to continue the long-running practice of ballot harvesting and ballot fraud.

Alma Yadira Juarez pleaded guilty in March to a Class 1 misdemeanor of Ballot Abuse for collecting four early ballots from Guillermina Fuentes on Aug. 4, 2020. Those ballots belonged to people for whom Juarez did not have any legal authority to have their ballots, she admitted.

It was something Juarez would have had a hard time disputing at trial, as the act was captured by Snyder on video. Juarez will be sentenced June 16; she is guaranteed probation with no upfront jail time.

This short clip shows the ballot harvesters operating in Yuma County. The video was taken by community activist Gary Snyder and turned over to the Arizona Attorney General’s Office. The Office’s investigation continues.

On June 2, Fuentes entered her guilty plea to a Class 6 felony of Ballot Abuse. As with Juarez’s plea deal, Fuentes is guaranteed that no further charges will be filed against her in connection with election fraud during the 2020 primary.

In addition, charges that Fuentes engaged in forgery and conspiracy were permanently dismissed when Judge Bruce Nelson agreed to accept the terms of a plea deal negotiated with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and Fuentes, a former San Luis mayor and longtime member of the Gadsden Elementary School District.

News of the higher-level felony forgery charge being dropped has ignited some controversy in San Luis, especially in light of the fact Fuentes is seen on video filling out someone else’s ballot. Many details about the investigation have also been disclosed now that Fuentes entered her guilty plea.

Among the disclosures by the Arizona Attorney General’s Office are several  reports by Agent William Knuth of the AGO’s special investigations section. One such report shows Knuth and two Yuma County Sheriff’s detectives used some subterfuge when Knuth first traveled to San Luis in August 2020.

According to the report, Knuth told Fuentes he wanted to speak with her about a complaint she previously filed “and see if she made any comments regarding our current investigation which may be useful.”

Another report reveals Knuth and the Yuma County detectives utilized the services of the Arizona Department of Public Safety crime lab in Lake Havasu City as well as the FBI lab in Quantico, Virginia to analyze and compare fingerprint evidence obtained from about 40 ballots cast in San Luis during the August 2020 primary election.

In addition, a court-ordered search warrant was obtained by a Yuma County sheriff’s detective to collect fingerprints from Fuentes.

During an October 2020 interview, a former employee of Fuentes’ construction company told Knuth about witnessing what appeared to be the delivery to the business of more than 50 ballots leading up to the 2016 General Election.

According to Knuth, the former employee “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.”

Investigators also identified and spoke with a number of voters who unwittingly gave their 2020 primary ballots to “a female” who called asking if she could collect their ballots.

Knuth summarized several weeks of investigation as establishing “a pattern and history” in San Luis of collecting ballots, and that Fuentes “has continued to be allowed to engage in suspicious activity regarding ballots without question due to her ‘powerful’ position,” in the community.

That pattern and history could continue if more is not done, Lara told Arizona Daily Independent after leaving Judge Nelson’s courtroom Thursday.

Lara was prepared to testify at trial if necessary about how he and Snyder decided to do something in hopes of revealing the criminal election conduct which he says has been ongoing for years. He feels disheartened that Fuentes is eligible for probation when sentenced June 30.

Court records show Nelson has full discretion on whether to impose a prison term, jail time, probation, or a combination. That is why Lara plans to write a letter to the judge imploring him to impose a term of incarceration for Fuentes.

“Serious consequences are necessary,” if the election fraud in Yuma County is to be stopped, Lara said. He added that people need to look beyond how many ballots a specific person was caught with, and focus on the damage a dozen or so influential local residents have had on public confidence in elections due to their blatant illegal conduct.

“You don’t have to be caught with ballots in your hands to be involved in election fraud,” Lara said. And he hopes recent developments will lead to bigger fish being caught by investigators. Someone big enough to warrant prison time.

“That is what it’ll take to get everyone thinking twice about committing voter fraud,” Lara said.

Additional investigations are active in connection with election fraud in San Luis and the greater Yuma County area.

Read More About Yuma County Voting Fraud Here >>>