Mona Romero, former executive director of the Louisiana Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, pleaded guilty July 27 to conspiracy to commit mail fraud, wire fraud, and identity fraud in connection with a 2008 horsemen’s group election.
U.S. Attorney Jim Letten announced the plea in a statement. Romero, 53, who left her Louisiana HBPA post in 2010, had been charged along with co-defendant Sean Alfortish, former president of the organization, in a 29-count indictment.
The case is being investigated by agents from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the U.S. Department of Labor Employee Benefits Security Administration regional office in Dallas, Texas.
Romero was named executive director in 2005 after Alfortish was elected to his first term of office as president. Romero in her plea admitted that she and others conspired to rig the outcome of the 2008 election in which Alfortish was seeking a second term.
Letten said an attempt was made to re-elect Alfortish as president and elect new board members selected by Alfortish and Romero to “replace certain members of the board of directors who had questioned their management of the HBPA during Alfortish’s first term of office.”
In order to be counted as valid, ballots had to bear a U.S. Postal Service postmark, and the envelope had to bear the Social Security number of an HBPA member eligible to vote in the election. Romero, Letten said, admitted that while preparing and casting the fraudulent ballots, she and others used the Social Security numbers of HBPA members without their knowledge and consent.
Romero admitted that she and two other individuals flew to various cities in four states—Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, and Texas—to mail falsified election ballots.
Romero faces a maximum penalty of five years imprisonment, and/or $250,000 in fines, and a $100 special assessment. Sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 27.
Alfortish’s trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 6.