Earlier this week, Miami New Timesobtained a 150-page WhatsApp chat that appears to include volunteers working with the 2018 campaign of Miami-Dade County Commission candidate (and former Republican state Sen.) Alex Diaz de la Portilla. They discuss stealing and shredding absentee ballots taken from voters that year. The workers say they are working to defeat the candidate's then-opponent, Zoraida Barreiro.
After the story was posted — and despite ignoring numerous requests for comment before publishing — Diaz de la Portilla claimed "none of this is from my campaign or my campaign workers" and that the article was "libelous."
But New Times has now confirmed the political consultant at the center of the chat, Doral resident Adriana Moyano, was paid nearly $5,000 from Diaz de la Portilla's campaign around the time of the chat. County records show his campaign gave Moyano's company, Ennovaco, $4,980 in two payments on May 21, 2018. The chat took place in April and May of that year.
The chat logs state Moyano (in one case misspelled as "Andrea Unova Marketing" rather than "Adriana Ennova") created the thread. Both her name and phone number appear throughout the logs. The Ennovaco number appears at least nine times and Moyano's name shows up more than 200 times. (WhatsApp by default uses phone numbers to identify those taking part in a chat. Names can be added voluntarily.)
On Monday, New Times published screenshots and photos from the WhatsApp thread that showed a group of women — all apparently working to elect Diaz de la Portilla — discussing stealing or shredding absentee ballots. In one image, a woman posted a photo of a ballot and wrote in Spanish, "Stolen, hahahaa. The lady gave it to us, but what do we do if she voted for Zoraida????"
Throughout the thread, participants discuss Diaz de la Portilla's campaign. The one identified as Moyano repeatedly states she is in contact with the candidate. At one point she tells the group, "Alex le gusto la estrategia," or "Alex liked the strategy" they had been using to communicate with voters. Most of the 150-page thread — named "Alex Diaz de la Portilla" — shows the group coordinating canvassing plans, discussing ideas for lunch, and sharing geo-coordinates where they'd been canvassing.
Despite receiving thousands of dollars from Diaz de la Portilla and other candidates in recent years, Moyano is not well known in the media. In 2016, she ran for Doral City Commission but lost. That year, the Miami Herald referred to her as a "newcomer." According to her 2016 campaign website, Moyano was born in Bogotá, Colombia, and holds a master's degree in marketing.
Moyano did not respond to multiple calls, texts, and email messages this week. On Wednesday, New Times reached an unnamed woman at Moyano's phone number who claimed she was Moyano's assistant; she said she could not give out Moyano's personal email address. She took a message that a reporter requested a return call — but it never came.
By text message on Wednesday, Diaz de la Portilla acknowledged he paid Moyano's company for "marketing." But he denied the leaked chat messages were real.
"Your article is pure libel," he said, referring to New Times' original story on May 20. "Typical of your yellow journalism."
He added: "My campaign, as all campaigns do, used dozens of vendors. Period. [There is] no story except the one you have made up." Asked what was made up, he wrote, "All of it."
Diaz de la Portilla also sent this reporter screenshots of the WhatsApp chat logs in which campaign volunteers claimed staffers for Zoraida Barreiro had insulted him and possibly mishandled ballots as well.
Diaz de la Portilla is not Moyano's only Miami-area political client. Between October and December 2017, the candidate's longtime political ally, former Miami Mayor Joe Carollo, paid Ennovaco at least $41,840 during a campaign for the Miami City Commission District 3 seat. The payments were listed for "professional services" and "consulting."
In addition, Carollo's electioneering-communications organization (essentially a political action committee), Miami First, sent at least $15,100 to Ennovaco during that race.
Carollo won. Among the losers was Zoraida Barreiro.
Carollo's name even turns up in the WhatsApp chat logs that Diaz de la Portilla claims are fake.
"Here is Carollooooo," one woman wrote in Spanish at 2:26 p.m. on May 19, 2018. "He brought a man to vote in this precinct, we're doing very well."
Carollo's representatives did not return a call and email seeking comment.
"I believe that company is known for hiring Venezuelan women as canvassers, but I can't really recall," he said.
If ballots were actually destroyed as the chat implies, law enforcement could become involved. Stealing, destroying, and even photographing ballots is illegal under Florida law. A spokesperson for the Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office, Ed Griffith, said he could neither confirm nor deny that the office is looking into the matter.
Editor's Note: Due to a translation error, an earlier version of this story misstated a reference to Diaz de la Portilla's family members. New Times has also added additional context regarding a fine levied against him by the state of Florida in 2001.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.