Posted: Dec 31, 2013 6:57 PM
Updated: Dec 31, 2013 7:17 PM
McALLEN - Three Rio Grande Valley women are facing federal charges after they allegedly coerced voters during the 2012 primary and general elections.
Federal agents said the women, known as politiqueras, altered the vote count.
The FBI defines a politiquera as "a person who works for a candidate to encourage people to vote, to bring voters to the polls, to ensure that voters elect the appropriate candidate and to pay for their votes."
Federal prosecutors claim Castaneda traded cash, food and rides to drug houses for votes. Escamilla is accused of giving money, food and cigarettes in exchange for votes. Gonzalez is accused of paying $5 to $10 per vote.
The federal indictments against the women say they worked for votes in Hidalgo County. The problem, though, is Valley-wide, a CHANNEL 5 NEWS investigation revealed.
Mary Helen Flores said illegal votes sway elections. Flores runs a citizens' group against voter abuse. She started the group after the results of a race flipped on mail-in ballots
"Our goal is to educate the public on the electoral process ... issues that we have here," Flores said.
Flores investigated Cameron County candidates and those who worked for them. She turned the results of her investigation to state and federal authorities.
The investigation resulted in federal charges against some people, like Sonia Leticia Solis. She admitted to voting on other people's ballots. She will be sentenced in February.
"It was blatant ... blatant," Flores said.
"We have historically been neglected by the state and federal government, financially. The only way we are going to change that is by having an authentic electoral process," Flores said.
Flores said she needs more people on her side to end election fraud in the Valley. She said it is up to the voters to reject bribes and maintain the integrity of the process.