MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade investigators looking into possible ballot fraud have raided the home of the man who is the operations director of commissioner Francis Suarez’s mayoral campaign.
The investigation into Juan Pablo Baggini was triggered by the county’s Elections Department after more than 20 requests for absentee ballots were submitted, according to CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald. The requests were flagged because they all came from the same computer. Investigators ran a check and found that the computer belonged to Baggini.
Steve Suarez, who is not only Francis Suarez’s campaign manager but also his cousin, said he’s confident investigators will find that they haven’t done anything illegal.
“I was informed this morning that law enforcement officials went to the home of a worker from my ECO (Electioneering Communication Organization) regarding approximately 20 absentee ballot request forms that were transmitted to the division of elections by electronic means,” said Suarez in a statement. “It should be emphasized that each and every-one of the requests were voluntarily and duly signed by a registered voter. I have instructed my campaign to fully cooperate with law enforcement officials regarding this matter and am confident that once the investigation is complete it will become apparent that no willful violations of the law occurred.”
Baggini’s neighbors said they saw the investigators show up around 8 a.m. and remove a computer from the home.
Suarez, who attended Thursday’s city commission meeting, was also confident that his campaign will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
Suarez said that the written requests for all of these 20 some ballots were made at a campaign event in the Brickell area. He believes that the written requests were then submitted electronically via the same computer. He added that every one of the ballots requested was in fact requested, originally, in writing at this campaign event.
Suarez is challenging Mayor Tomas Regalado in the November election.
Suarez, whose campaign has been courting young professionals, said he hired Baggini to handle social media and media relations activities.
The campaign had held several events targeting younger voters, and has helped them sign up for absentee ballots.
The investigation into Baggini is completely separate from the State Attorney’s Office investigation into workers for U.S. Rep. Joe Garcia over suspected absentee-ballot request fraud.
Two of Garcia’s congressional staffers, and a third person, have been implicated in a scheme to submit hundreds of fraudulent absentee ballot requests for the August 14th primary. Garcia’s chief of staff, Jeff Garcia, no relation, admitted directing the scheme and was fired by the congressman.