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Phoenix man denies stealing election center security keys

Maricopa County election officials said security keys and tablets connected to vote-counting machines have been reprogrammed and there is no risk to the integrity of future elections.

PHOENIX (CN) — A man seen on security camera stealing security keys from a Maricopa County election center made his first court appearance Tuesday morning.

Walter Lingfield, 27, was indicted on a computer tampering charge on July 1 after being arrested at his home a week earlier. Lingfield was arrested while working a temporary job at the county's main election counting center. He was caught on camera stealing a strap from a desk June 20. Election officials said the lanyard was equipped with a security key and a magnetic key fob to access vote-counting machines.

The missing items were located the following morning. According to the affidavit, Lingfield initially denied stealing, but police soon found the lanyard and keys in Lingfield's vehicle and a magnetic key chain on his bedroom dresser. Lingfield told police he had not intended to steal the items and was simply looking to dress well to make a good impression and get promoted from a temporary position to a full-time employee.

Because the fobs were removed from a secure facility, all security fobs and tablets connected to vote-counting machines will need to be reprogrammed, a cost election officials estimate will be about $20,000.

“Until reprogramming is complete, the safe operation of the facility will be significantly impaired,” the affidavit states.

Police found sufficient grounds to indict Lingfield on theft and criminal damage charges, but a grand jury instead indicted him on computer tampering, a second-degree felony, because the computer in question accessed “critical infrastructure resources.” A second-degree felony can carry a prison sentence of three to 35 years.

Lingfield pleaded not guilty at his arraignment Tuesday morning in Maricopa County Superior Court. He no longer works for the elections department.

Before his firing, Lingfield had been tasked with assisting staff in testing the logic and accuracy of vote-counting machines, a county elections spokesman said after his arrest. Officials said at a press conference last week that the incident does not signal the possibility of fraud in future elections, but it has still sparked speculation. Cultivating through social mediaSome have alleged that Lingfield was hired by Democrats to steal the 2024 general election.

Lingfield is Other theft cases.

A month ago, he was caught on security camera stealing $9,500 worth of jewelry from a mannequin at a private event at the Phoenix Art Museum. Police say he was wearing a pocket watch he had stolen from another exhibit at the museum. He was charged with one count of theft.

In mid-June, prior to the theft of the security fobs, an Arizona Senate staffer reported that challenge coins and other “desk accessories” were missing from the security guard's desk. Senate Republicans posted security footage showing Lingfield on Twitter. Walk through the restricted areas of the Senate Building.

Senate Republicans say otherwise post Lingfield told security he was an intern for a Democratic senator, who clarified that he was not employed by anyone in the nation's capital.

He was charged with one count of theft and one count of trespass.

He was also arrested for stealing more than $1,000 in cash while working at a Fry's grocery store in 2023. Surveillance footage shows him pocketing the cash directly from customers in multiple transactions. The county elections board said he had no criminal history on file when he was hired because he was in a diversion program.

Lingfield's next in-person hearing will be a complex case management conference on Sept. 30. His trial is scheduled for Nov. 6. He has not yet been appointed a public defender.

The Maricopa County Elections Department did not respond to additional questions.

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