Colorado City voter fraud investigator hired by Mohave County

April 16, 2019

The Mohave County Board of Supervisors on Monday approved the hiring of an investigator in a probe to determine if Colorado City residents committed voter fraud during the 2018 election cycle.

On the border of Arizona and Utah, Colorado City is home to fewer than 5,000 residents, many of whom are either members or former members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

The sect of Mormonism made national headlines in 2005 when accusations of underage marriage and abuse surfaced against members including church leader Warren Jeffs. Despite Jeffs’ legacy, the Fundamentalist Church maintained a majority in Colorado City’s government in 2018.

But statements by anonymous members of the Colorado City community allege that former residents may have voted without a properly-registered address, according to Mohave County Attorney Matt Smith.

“Our office received some information from people who live in the Colorado City area that there may have been voter fraud that took place in 2018 during various elections,” Smith said Monday at a meeting of the Mohave County Board of Supervisors. “Particularly, they said there were people who no longer lived at their recorded addresses who registered to vote in the election. We also had information from sources and informants that they knew people listed in the voter registration who weren’t living at that residence, and they knew the person who was living at that residence weren’t the same people.”

After receiving reports of alleged election fraud, Smith contacted investigator Gary Engels, who was credited with the 2005 investigation into complaints against Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church. Engels is a former officer of the Bullhead City Police Department, and has been employed by law enforcement agencies throughout Colorado. He maintains contacts and informants throughout the Colorado City area, Smith said, and was an ideal candidate to investigate reports of election fraud this year. The board of supervisors approved hiring Engels on Monday, and the fee for his services will be $21 per hour, with expenses paid, in an amount not to exceed $8,000.

“It is a concern for us to have accountability in our elections,” Smith said. “The lack of cooperation Gary and other people have had in the past when investigating Colorado City is something we’re going to have to deal with. It’s difficult to prove things, and difficult to go in and knock on doors, and get people to actually open those doors and answer questions. I think having someone up there, asking around and investigating will put people on notice – if there is inappropriate conduct, this will show people we’re taking it seriously.”

This story will continue to be updated as more information becomes available.