The police investigation into alleged absentee-ballot fraud in Hialeah expanded Wednesday to 164 absentee ballots mailed at a post office shortly after a woman was discovered two weeks ago carrying dozens of them.
Detectives with the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Public Corruption Unit interviewed on Tuesday and Wednesday voters whose ballots were part of the latest batch. Previously, 31 questionable absentee ballots had been discovered.
One of the voters interviewed this week was Milagros Guerrero, 64.
“I only handed in three ballots,” Guerrero told El Nuevo Herald without naming the person she gave them to. “I was already interviewed by the detectives and have nothing more to say.”
It is not clear when the 164 absentee ballots were mailed. However, Guerrero’s ballot arrived at the Miami-Dade Elections Department on July 27, according to public records.
On the afternoon of July 25, authorities arrested Deisy Cabrera, 56, with about 10 absentee ballots. Detectives had also watched her as she mailed an additional 19 absentee ballots at a post office at 2200 NW 72nd Ave.
Cabrera was charged Aug. 2 with forging the signature on an absentee ballot and two minor counts of possessing other people’s ballots in violation of a county ordinance. The allegedly forged signature was that of Zulema Gómez, who lives at a nursing home and suffers from a brain tumor.
Cabrera surrendered at the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office the day El Nuevo Herald reported Gómez’s case. One of the detectives to whom she surrendered visited Guerrero’s house Wednesday, accompanied by another officer.
Wednesday, detectives interviewed at least two other elderly voters who live in federally subsidized apartments, according to a city source.
Spokesmen for the police and the state attorney’s office would not comment Wednesday on the case because the investigation is ongoing.
Christina White, deputy director of the Miami-Dade Elections Department, said she was notified about the 164 absentee ballots at the end of last week. She said police told her the ballots had been mailed at a post office. Officials would not confirm the post office’s location, but sources familiar with the case said it is the post office at 2200 NW 72nd Ave.
“The elections supervisor decided to handle them the way we have handled the other 31 ballots,” White wrote in an email to El Nuevo Herald.
After Tuesday’s election, in which Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez faces Joe Martinez and other candidates, as well as numerous legislative, municipal and judicial races, a special committee will examine the 195 ballots to determine which are valid.
The investigation has stirred turmoil in Miami-Dade because Cabrera had promoted the campaigns of several politicians and officials, including Gimenez. Cabrera was arrested a block away from Gimenez’s campaign office in Hialeah.
The arrest was witnessed by Hialeah City Council member Vivian Casals-Muñoz and entrepreneur Jorge González, who were helping on Gimenez’s campaign. González said they approached the detectives to ask what was going on, but were told to stay away.
Gimenez has said Cabrera was never part of his campaign. After her arrest, critics and political activists questioned what seemed to be a conflict of interest of State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle in this case because she shared the same consulting firm with Gimenez — Quantum Results.
Fernandez-Rundle recused herself from the case after being informed that someone working for a firm hired by her campaign had been seen with Cabrera. Broward State Attorney Michael Satz has been appointed to prosecute the case.
This campaign operative who prompted Fernandez-Rundle’s withdrawal has not been identified. On Monday, Gimenez canceled his contract with Quantum Results after learning that it had hired an ex-convict, Gerardo Judas “Jerry” Ramos, who has a long history of convictions for fraud and other offenses.