Fraudsters in California have been arrested for allegedly taking advantage of the state’s homelessness crisis in a mail-in ballot scheme.
In an operation that authorities have linked with the criminal MS-13 gang, two men were arrested for filing phony voter registration applications on behalf of thousands of homeless people, local ABC affiliate KACB reported.
Two men charged in California
One of the men charged, Carlos Antonio De Bourbon Montenegro, is accused of falsifying names, addresses, and signatures on nomination papers under penalty of perjury so that he could run to be mayor of Hawthorne.
Montenegro, 53, and Marcos Raul Arevalo, 34, were slapped with 41 criminal charges in a scheme to get Montenegro elected. They were charged with one count of conspiracy to commit voter fraud, eight counts of voter fraud, four counts of procuring and offering a false or forged instrument, and four misdemeanor counts of interference with a prompt transfer of a completed affidavit.
Montenegro faces an additional 10 charges of voter fraud, seven counts of procuring and offering a false or forged instrument, two counts of perjury, and five misdemeanor counts of interference with a prompt transfer of a completed affidavit.
The pair are accused of submitting over 8,000 fraudulent voter registration applications between July and October. They used three mailboxes and Montenegro’s home address to collect the ballots, but they were caught before any could be cast.
At an arraignment Tuesday, prosecutors alleged that the MS-13 gang funded and backed the operation so they could have Montenegro elected to their benefit, KACB reported. Arevalo was paid $2,000 for each batch of fake registrations, and authorities said that the ballots were uncovered at a motel room.
Mother speaks out
Montenegro and Arevalo both pleaded not guilty.
Montenegro’s mother, Madeline Gonsalves, said she questioned whether what her son was doing was legal, Fox affiliate KTTV reported. “He’s an extremely intelligent person,” she said. “I kept telling him, ‘Are you sure this is OK?’ He said, ‘Mom, they’re homeless people. They need to vote like anyone else.'”
“My son has lots of ideas,” she added.
Montenegro faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Arevalo faces up to seven years in prison.
This comes as President Donald Trump has claimed that the Democrats defrauded the presidential election using mail-in ballots, a charge Democrats have insisted is a completely baseless “conspiracy theory.”