Three in Florida, Virginia charged with criminal voter fraud

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 28, 2016 11:57 AM

By Scott Malone

(Reuters) - Officials in Florida and Virginia filed voter fraud charges against three people in apparently unrelated cases on Friday, just 11 days before American voters cast ballots in the hotly contested presidential race.

The charges targeted a Florida woman and a Virginia man accused of filing bogus voter registration forms and a Florida woman alleged to have tampered with absentee ballots she was opening at the Miami-Dave Elections Department.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly charged in recent weeks that the election will be rigged in favor of Democrat Hillary Clinton, though he has shown no proof for these claims and many Republicans have called them unfounded.

Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle in Florida said that one woman, 74-year-old Gladys Coego, had been working as an absentee ballot opener when a supervisor allegedly saw her marking ballots that had been left blank to show votes for a Miami-Dade County mayoral candidate. Prosecutors said that Coego admitted to marking the ballots, and was charged with two felony counts of marking or designating the ballot of another.

"The integrity of the electoral process is intact because our procedures work," said Christina White, the county's election supervisor, in a statement. "While disappointed by these incidents, I am very proud of the safeguards the Elections Department has in place to prevent these fraudulent attempts."

Separately, 33-year-old Tomika Curgil was charged with five felony counts of submitting false voter registration information for allegedly handing in forms filled out by fictitious voters while working on a voter-registration drive for a medical marijuana advocacy group.

Neither Coego nor Curgil could be reached for immediate comment.

A Virginia man was also charged with submitting falsified forms while working for a voter-registration campaign, according to state prosecutors.

Vafalay Massaquoi, 30, was arraigned on two felony counts of forging a public record and two felony counts of voter registration fraud. Each count carries a potential maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

"Given the recent public attention to claims of election fraud, I think it is important to note that there is no allegation that any illegal vote was actually cast in this case," said Virginia Commonwealth's Attorney Bryan Porter. "Furthermore, since the fraudulent applications involved fictitious people, had the fraud not been uncovered, the risk of actual fraudulent votes being cast was low."

It could not immediately be learned if Massaquoi, who was in custody, had retained an attorney.

(Reporting by Scott Malone in Boston; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)