Ten years later, in 2003, another Hialeah election led to another court challenge, and another criminal investigation.
Once again, an imbalance in absentee votes cast doubt on the results: City council candidate Adriana Narvaez received the majority of the votes on Election Day, but her opponent, Eddy Gonzalez, won 73 percent of the absentee votes. Two other races were swayed by a similar bulge in absentee votes.
Narvaez filed a lawsuit challenging the election, and Miami-Dade corruption detectives began investigating a group of so-called boleteros who collected hundreds of absentee ballots on behalf of Gonzalez and a slate of allied candidates.
Narvaez complained that Gonzalez and other allies of Raul Martinez, who was still mayor at the time, were granted access to voters in Hialeah’s public housing complexes, while Narvaez and her team were blocked from the properties.
A confidential witness also told police that campaign workers held the hands of some elderly voters to guide their votes, and in some cases falsely claimed they witnessed voters casting their ballots, police records show. At the time, a witness was required for all absentee votes.
One of the targets of the criminal probe: Alfredo Llamedo, an aide who worked in Bovo’s Hialeah City Council office at the time.
Llamedo told police that he collected more than 400 absentee ballots from elderly voters in the days before the November 2003 election and delivered them to campaign offices at the Hialeah Race Track — where Bovo also had an office, according to police records.
In many cases, Llamedo helped the voters fill out the ballot envelope, using distinctive block lettering that caught the attention of detectives. And sometimes, he said, he would seal the envelopes for voters while sitting in his car. But Llamedo insisted that he never signed a voter’s signature or sought to influence how someone voted.
Llamedo said he learned the techniques of ballot collection from Sergio Robaina, when they worked together on Bovo’s 1999 campaign.
“You have to be very patient and you have to make sure you explain to them clearly how they have to vote and all that,” Llamedo said in a later deposition in the Narvaez lawsuit.
Llamedo was never charged with any crimes in the 2003-04 investigation.
“They offered me a deal which naturally I didn’t take because I told them I’m not guilty and don’t have to make deals if I’m not guilty,” Llamedo said in his May 17, 2004, deposition.
In the deposition, Llamedo said he worked for Gonzalez and his slate at the request of Bovo, and said Bovo supplied his lawyer during the civil deposition.
But in his own deposition, taken three months later, Bovo denied steering Llamedo to the other campaigns, and he denied providing Llamedo with a lawyer. Bovo, who was not on the ballot in 2003, said he did not hire any ballot -brokers in his prior political campaigns, though he also said Llamedo “may have” collected absentee ballots for him in 1999.
Bovo has continued to hire Llamedo as a campaign worker: in 2005, in 2008 and last year, paying Llamedo a total of $7,000, records show.
Llamedo could not be reached for comment for this story. Bovo said he has “never asked or encouraged Alfredo, nor any other campaign worker, to collect ballots for my or any other campaign.”