Wednesday, June 28, 2006

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Reeves County Woman Convicted For Voter Fraud

PECOS – Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has announced the conviction of a Reeves County woman who unlawfully handled mail-in ballots in the March 2004 primary election.

Trinidad Villalobos, 60, of Pecos was found guilty by a Reeves County jury and sentenced to six months probation on each count of illegally possessing and transporting election ballots of several voters.

“Those who perpetrate voter fraud are victimizing and intimidating the elderly,” said Attorney General Abbott. “The integrity of our democratic election process must be protected. I will make certain that anyone who takes advantage of Texas voters is held accountable.”

Investigators from the Attorney General’s Criminal Investigations Division interviewed numerous witnesses, who corroborated complaints that Villalobos routinely assisted elderly residents in filling out applications for mail-in ballots. When the actual ballots arrived by mail, she returned to these homes to collect completed ballots and mailed them for the residents.

The charges against her were violations of Chapter 86 of the Texas Election Code, which specifies the officials who may handle and process mail-in ballots. The charges, Class B misdemeanors, carry a possible $2,000 fine and up to 180 days confinement on each count.

The sentencing follows nearly a dozen misdemeanor indictments and one felony indictment entered since last summer. All were investigated and prosecuted on referral from the Texas Secretary of State.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Abbott obtained the first felony indictment for illegal voting against a Nueces County woman who allegedly marked ballots for other voters during early voting for the March 2006 Democratic primary. In February 2006, a Texarkana City Council member and two other women were indicted for illegally handling mail-in ballots for seniors and other voters during the November 2004 general elections. In January 2006, the mother of a March 2004 primary candidate for Reeves County sheriff was indicted for illegally possessing and transporting election ballots of several voters.

In November 2005, Attorney General Abbott obtained a guilty plea from a Hardeman County Commissioner for collecting mail-in ballots while he was a candidate in the 2004 primary and general elections. In July 2005, a Bee County woman pleaded guilty to charges of attempted illegal voting for mailing an absentee ballot in the name of her deceased mother.