Two men in Miami were accused of stealing mail-in ballots from a post office mailbox.
The incident occurred late Tuesday in Broward County when a police officer noticed two men idling in a vehicle next to a mailbox in Lighthouse Point, north of Fort Lauderdale, the South Florida SunSentinel reported.
The officer spotted a bag of mail wedged between the front car seat of the vehicle and also noticed a device used to fish mail out of the drop box. Additionally, there were two mail-in ballots separated from the other mail spotted.
Authorities arrested Junior Alexander Cabral, 28, and Vladimir Cabral Cuevas, 20, charging them with stealing ballots, fraud and petit theft. The U.S. Postal Service is involved in the investigation, the report added.
The men attended their first court appearance Thursday morning before Broward Judge Corey Amanda Cawthon.
She expressed concern about the charges, noting the proximity to Election Day, which is Tuesday.
"I'm not going to speculate as to the intentions behind the allegations, what mail was intended to be recovered or not," she said. "But, I do have to take notice of the fact we have a very big election coming up next week and the timing seems to be aggravating in Mr. Cabral's case."
Defense attorney Richard Cooper represents Cuevas and told Cawthon that his client's case is not how it appears.
"My client was charged incorrectly by overzealous law enforcement looking to fill an empty narrative that would make a politically expedient mountain out of a molehill given the proximity to the general election," he told the SunSentinel in a statement issued Thursday.
Cawthon set bonds totaling $3,025 for each defendant. Neither man had prior convictions, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
Lighthouse Point Police Cmdr. Jack Vaccaro said the ballots won't be held as evidence in the investigation.
"We are making arrangements to return these two ballots to their owners so they can deliver them to be counted," said Vaccaro.