Grand Prairie Woman Sentenced to 8 Years in Prison for Voter Fraud

A Grand Prairie woman who was found guilty on two counts of illegal voting has been sentenced to eight years in prison along with a $5,000 fine on Thursday.

Rosa Maria Ortega was arrested in 2015. She is a legal U.S. resident, but is not a citizen and therefore, not qualified to vote.

“This case shows how serious Texas is about keeping its elections secure, and the outcome sends a message that violators of the state’s election law will be prosecuted to the fullest,” Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement. “Safeguarding the integrity of our elections is essential to preserving our democracy.”

A Tarrant County jury deliberated for about two hours before returning the guilty verdict Wednesday. Ortega was sentenced on Thursday.

Prosecutors say Ortega applied to vote in Tarrant County and acknowledged on the application form that she was not a citizen. The county rejected her application and notified her she was not qualified to vote.

But five months later, she applied again and this time claimed she was a citizen, they said.

Ortega never actually voted in Tarrant County, but investigators learned has previously voted in Dallas County.

The defense argued that Ortega didn't understand the difference between "resident" and "citizen" on the applications.

Dallas County Elections Administrator Toni Pippins-Poole said records showed that Ortega had voted a total of five times, most recently in the Republican primary runoff in May 2014.

In court Tuesday, prosecutors showed voter registration documents from Dallas County and the applications from Tarrant County.

And in audio recordings played in the court room, Sgt. Boone Caldwell, an investigator from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office, asks Ortega if she is a citizen, and she replies "yes." He then asks if she is a U.S. citizen and she says "Mexican."

Defense attorney Clark Birdsall said Ortega came to America with her mother as a small child.

Birdsall asked Boone Tuesday if he had informed Ortega that their conversation was being recorded. Boone said he had not.

NBC 5's Holley Ford contributed to this report.

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