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US Justice Dept. indicts 19 foreign nationals for illegal voting in 2016 polls

US Department of Justice charges 19 foreign nationals with illegal voting in 2016 presidential election. (File photo)

US Justice Department has announced the indictment of 19 foreign-born individuals for illegally voting in the 2016 presidential election, describing the move as part of an ongoing voter fraud investigation.

United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina Robert J. Higdon, Jr. issued the indictments on Friday, underlining that the cases are under probe as part of a new initiative in the Document and Benefit Fraud Task Force, US-based Politico magazine reported.

The development came after US President Donald Trump vowed to root out voter fraud following his unsubstantiated claims that millions had voted illegally in the 2016 presidential poll, which he won without the popular vote.

US presidential elections are decided not by popular votes but by the number of electoral votes, designated to each of its 51 states based on their population. Even if a candidate wins a state’s vote by a thin margin, he or she picks up the entire number of electoral votes assigned to the state.

Trump lost the popular vote to his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million ballots. He then went so far as to establish a Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which is now disbanded, according to the report.

Nine individuals, according to the Justice Department (DoJ), were charged with a false claim of United States citizenship in order to register to vote and cast a ballot. They included foreign nations from Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Nigeria, the Philippines, Panama, Grenada, Japan and Guyana, and face a maximum penalty of six years in prison and a $350,000 fine.

Eight separate individuals, the DoJ added, were charged with “voting by an alien.” They included foreign citizens from El Salvador, Mexico, Italy, Haiti, Germany, Poland and Korea, and could face a maximum of 12 months in prison and a $100,000 fine.

Furthermore, a Mexican citizen was also charged with fraud and misuse of visas, permits and other documents, in addition to voting by a nonresident, and faces a maximum of 26 years in prison and a $350,000 fine.

Only one person has so far pleaded guilty in the DoJ cases, according to the report, explaining that Ramon Estaban Paez-Jerez pleaded guilty to “a two-count Criminal Information charging him with passport fraud and voting by an alien” earlier this month. He faces a maximum of 11 years in prison and a $350,000 fine.

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