Sergio “El Tío” Robaina said Thursday he wants to clear his name against electoral-fraud allegations and, in a further twist to Hialeah’s growing absentee-ballot scandal, claimed that a former aide to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo asked for his help in collecting ballots.
In an interview with El Nuevo Herald, Robaina, 74, said Anamary Pedrosa and her mother stopped by his house four or five times to retrieve the ballots he had collected from friends and neighborhood acquaintances. He said he was never paid.
“She’d stop by about 5:30 p.m. with her mom,” he said. “They’d collect them and then count them.”
Robaina was arrested on Aug. 10 on two felony charges of tampering with absentee ballots. He said he’s never done such a thing.
“I will defend my innocence in court and wherever else I have to,” he said.
According to Robaina, Pedrosa visited after work hours. She told him she was helping with the campaigns of Manny Díaz Jr., José Oliva, and Eddy González, who won their respective bids for the Florida House of Representatives in the Aug. 14 primary elections.
However, email records show that Pedrosa was helping at least one of these candidates, Díaz, during work hours in June and July. Also, financial records show that her mother was paid to work on Oliva’s campaign in April.
Neither Díaz, Oliva, nor González responded to multiple calls on Thursday evening. Bovo, who supported the three candidates, also could not be reached for a comment.
Said Robaina: “I didn’t want to do anything in that campaign but she asked me for help.”
His account contradicts what Pedrosa has told authorities, who say she is cooperating.
According to Miami-Dade police, Pedrosa said that Robaina and other individuals took more than 150 ballots to Bovo’s Hialeah office, where she worked, in the weeks prior to the election.
“Pedrosa reported that Robaina asked her to deliver the envelopes to the post office because he trusted her,” according to Robaina’s arrest report.
On the evening of July 25, hours after another Hialeah woman was questioned by police about a separate batch of ballots, Pedrosa took a bundle of 164 ballots to a mailbox outside a post office in northwest Miami-Dade, according to authorities. The suspicious bundle was discovered the following morning by a postal employee, who alerted authorities.
On Thursday evening, two El Nuevo Herald reporters visited the townhouse where 25-year-old Pedrosa lives. A woman who identified herself as Pedrosa’s mother refused to comment, even after hearing about Robaina’s account.
“You’re disturbing the lives of decent people,” said the woman, who threatened to call police. “It’s my daughter who is in the middle of all of this.”
Property records show that the home belongs to Alejandro Alvarez, who in 2006 married Ana R. Valdez, Pedrosa’s mother. Ballots belong to Valdez and Pedrosa are among the bundle of 164.
Financial records show that Valdez was a campaign worker for Oliva this year, receiving a $250 payment in April.
On Thursday, Robaina spoke highly of Pedrosa. He considered her “an angel” who does favors for needy Hialeah residents, like sending faxes and helping fill out complicated paperwork. He said Pedrosa arrived from Cuba with her mother when she was a young girl and that she aspires to be an attorney.