Fmr Dem mayor pleads guilty to felony 2020 ballot harvesting scheme

The former Arizona Democratic mayor of San Luis has pled guilty this week to a felony ballot harvesting scheme implemented for the state’s hotly-contested 2020 primary election.

Following a plea deal that saw the most serious charges of forgery and conspiracy dropped, Guillermina Fuentes, 66, could now receive probation for illegally collecting early ballots, Arizona Central reports.

“Arizona law only provides for a family member, household member, or caregiver of the voter to collect voted or unvoted early ballots from another person,” according to a statement from the office of Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich.

Fuentes admitted she “knowingly collect[ed] ballots from another person, and those early ballots belonged to individuals for whom I am not a family member, household member, or caregiver,” the AG’s office said, adding that Fuentes also copped to giving the early ballots to Alma Juarez.

The admission constitutes a Class 6 Felony.

Both Fuentes and Juarez were indicted in December 2020 on one count of ballot abuse, more commonly known as “ballot harvesting.” Last October, charges of conspiracy, forgery, and another ballot abuse charge were added against Fuentes.

Juarez pled guilty to the charge in March.

“Investigators wrote that it appeared Fuentes used her position as a powerful figure in the heavily Mexican-American community to get people to give her or others their ballots to return to the polls,” Arizona Central reports. “Fuentes and her co-defendant were seen with several mail-in envelopes outside a cultural center in San Luis on the day of the 2020 primary election, the reports show. The ballots were taken inside and dropped in a ballot box.”

Fuentes was caught when a write-in candidate videotaped the actions of Fuentes and Juarez and called the Yuma County sheriff. Fuentes was reportedly seen on the video marking at least one of the ill-gotten ballots. but that charge was among those that were dismissed.

Fuentes faced charges for those crimes caught on tape, but investigators believe her harvesting scheme went much farther.

“Attorney General’s Office Investigator William Kluth wrote in one report that there was some evidence suggesting Fuentes actively canvassed San Luis neighborhoods and collected ballots, in some cases paying for them,” writes Arizona Central.

Fewer than a dozen ballots were directly linked to Fuentes. Based on those numbers, it is unlikely that the disgraced former mayor and current elected board member of San Luis’s Gadsen Elementary School District could have successfully swayed any but the tightest of local races.

This is the first case to be brought by Brnovich’s office under the state’s ballot harvesting law, enacted in 2016 and upheld last year by the Supreme Court of the United States.

While Fuentes could receive up to two years in prison, the sentencing is left up to the judge’s discretion and aggravating circumstances would need to be found for her to get the maximum.

Juarez is scheduled to be sentenced on June 16 and Fuentes is slated for June 30.

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