Like many Hialeah ballot-brokers, 25-year-old Anamary Pedrosa began collecting absentee ballots this summer from those close to her, including her mother and a cousin’s boyfriend.
At the same time, the former aide to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Esteban Bovo was establishing herself as a sophisticated campaign worker in a world that is dominated by her elders.
During county work hours, Pedrosa coordinated and attended campaign events for at least one candidate for the state Legislature and four judicial candidates. She told candidates she would introduce them to elderly Hispanic voters, and took them to meet her grandmother’s neighbors in a low-income apartment building in Hialeah Gardens.
Pedrosa, who received immunity from prosecution after giving a sworn statement to authorities, is a key figure in a growing criminal investigation that began in late July after she dropped off a bundle of 164 absentee ballots at a post office. Those who know the young Cuban immigrant do not understand why she was gathering the ballots in Bovo’s office or getting involved with political campaigns.
“It seemed strange to me to see her at political events,” said Reina Guanche, 69, a well-known political activist in Hialeah. “Anamary is this young girl who works in an office helping people. She understands nothing about politics.”
Pedrosa’s name did not appear in any campaign reports. But candidates paid her mother, Ana Valdés, close to $6,000.
Aside from one judge who spoke with El Nuevo Herald in August, no other elected official who benefited from Pedrosa’s services has explained her role in their campaigns, or why they paid her mother for the work.
It is unclear what campaign work, if any, Valdés performed. Her name first appeared in campaign reports in April, when state Rep. José Oliva paid her $250. Oliva has not responded to repeated requests for comment.
In early July, Bovo received a complaint alleging that Pedrosa had offered the services of boleteros, or ballot brokers, to judicial candidates during a Fourth of July event in Hialeah. Bovo, who was vacationing in Spain at the time, has said Pedrosa denied the allegation when they spoke in person in mid-July. In fact, Pedrosa explained that several judicial candidates had asked her to join their campaigns.
Bovo has said he warned Pedrosa that she could not work on political campaigns. But public records and interviews show that she had already been doing so for weeks.
Her own county emails show how, in late June, she was organizing a July 5 campaign stop at a Hialeah public housing apartment building for Manny Díaz Jr., then a candidate for the Legislature.
State Reps. Díaz, Oliva and Eddy González are political allies. Two ballot brokers, including Sergio “el Tío” Robaina, have told El Nuevo Herald that Pedrosa sought their help collecting ballots in support of the three candidates, who won their respective races. Robaina was charged in August with tampering with two of the dozens of absentee ballots he handed to Pedrosa.
During county work hours, Pedrosa took five political candidates to Samari Towers, a low-income apartment building in Hialeah. Her blind 74-year-old grandmother, Mirtha Jiménez, lives there. Jimenez’s ballot wound up in the bundle of 164.
Building officials explained that Pedrosa called in early July to seek permission to hold a campaign meet-and-greet event for Díaz. The day of the visit, Pedrosa accompanied Díaz to the building to meet a dozen voters and hand out orange plastic campaign cups.