When authorities revealed a month ago that one of his former aides had collected some 164 absentee ballots in his Hialeah office, county Commissioner Esteban Bovo expressed shock at the news.
But on Monday, Bovo admitted that more than a month earlier he’d received a separate complaint that his then-aide Anamary Pedrosa had offered the services of ballot brokers to judicial candidates at a Fourth of July celebration in Hialeah. “I confronted her and Anamary denied being involved in any campaigns,” Bovo told Channel-41 AmericaTeve. “In fact, she said that some judicial candidates had asked for her help, but she said she wasn’t working for anybody for pay or as a volunteer. I believed her.”
However, Miami-Dade County Judge Don S. Cohn told a different story to El Nuevo Herald on Monday night. He said Pedrosa and her mother offered to take him to meet elderly Hispanic voters at an apartment building in Hialeah Gardens. Cohn ended up paying her mother, Ana Valdez, for the work.
“[Pedrosa] was definitely the one who approached me,” said Cohn, who won the race despite losing in absentee ballots. “My expectation was that she was going to take me to those places. I don’t speak Spanish.”
Pedrosa doesn’t show up in any campaign reports for the Aug. 14 elections. But Valdez earned some $5,700 for working in three judicial campaigns.
Two ballot brokers in Hialeah told El Nuevo Herald last week that Pedrosa had asked them to collect absentee ballots in support of three candidates for the Florida House of Representatives. Neither said Pedrosa asked for help on any judicial races.
According to authorities, Pedrosa said under subpoena that Sergio “El Tío” Robaina and others gave her dozens of ballots in Bovo’s office in Hialeah because they trusted she would deliver them to the post office.
But Robaina and another so-called boletera, Claribel “Beba” Ferrer, told El Nuevo Herald that Pedrosa sought their help and even collected the ballots from their homes. Robaina has been charged with felony counts of tampering with ballots.
Pedrosa’s attorney, J.C. Planas, said his client is cooperating with authorities and has not been accused of a crime.
On Friday, political campaign consultant Sasha Tirador criticized Bovo for expressing surprise when the ballot-fraud scandal broke. Tirador, who helped Bovo in his own run for county office last year, said she’d complained to him in July after hearing that Pedrosa was offering ballot-broker services to judicial candidates.
One of these candidates, apparently, was Cohn, her own client. Tirador said late Monday that she didn’t even know that Pedrosa had approached him.
According to Cohn, Pedrosa offered to take him to a Hispanic church, introduce him to elderly voters in Hialeah Gardens and hand out campaign publicity. He said absentee ballots were never part of the package.
Cohn said Pedrosa and Valdez took him to a Hialeah apartment building that’s home to elderly Hispanic voters in Hialeah Gardens called Samari Towers, 10251 NW 80th Court. He paid Valdez a total of $1,350.
Valdez also worked for the judicial campaigns of Michelle Alvarez Barakat and Tanya Brinkley, who won their respective elections. Neither responded to calls from El Nuevo Herald late Monday evening.
Brinkley paid Valdez $1,800 for marketing, according to campaign finance reports. Alvarez Barakat gave Valdez $2,550 for marketing and other campaign work.
A single ballot from the building that Cohn visited with Pedrosa and her mother wound up in the batch of 164 that Pedrosa took to the post office. It belonged to Mirtha Jiménez, who is 74 and blind. “I signed and filled out my own ballot, with my daughter’s help,” said Jiménez, who said that she had no clue how Pedrosa ended up with the ballot.