Temporary Maricopa County elections worker arrested after theft from tabulation center

Jun 24, 2024, 9:37 AM | Updated: Jun 25, 2024, 9:16 am

Mugshot of Walter Ringfield, who allegedly stole a security fob and keys from the Maricopa County T...

Walter Ringfield, accused of stealing from the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC) last week, also allegedly committed theft at the Arizona Senate building. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)

(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office Photo)

PHOENIX – A temporary elections worker was arrested for allegedly stealing a security fob and keys from the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center (MCTEC) last week, according to authorities.

Walter Ringfield, 27, was taken into custody Friday and booked into jail on counts of theft and criminal damage. He is not eligible for bond because he was on release as part of a felony diversion program in a 2023 case, according to court records.

The Maricopa County Elections Department said Ringfield underwent a background check, which didn’t show any criminal convictions.

The theft occurred Thursday as the county elections officials prepare for the July 30 primary election. Early voting starts July 3.

MCTEC is located on Third Avenue and Lincoln Street in downtown Phoenix. It was the site of demonstrations by right-wing activists while ballots were being counted during the 2020 and 2022 general elections.

Election workers conducting daily inventory Friday morning discovered that an item was taken from the Ballot Tabulation Center the previous evening, according to the Maricopa County Elections Department.

“Staff took immediate action to investigate the matter and contacted the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office,” Jennifer Liewer, a spokesperson for the elections department, said in a statement Monday.

Why was temporary Maricopa County elections worker arrested for theft?

Ringfield was seen on surveillance camera footage taking the missing item from a desk around 5 p.m. Thursday, according to court documents.

“On the desk there was a red scrunchy wrist lanyard with a security fob and keys attached,” the probable cause statement for Ringfield’s arrest says. “Walter stops at the desk, grabs the lanyard with security fob and continues walking. Walter then puts the security fob and lanyard into the right pocket of his shorts.”

Detectives served a search warrant at Ringfield’s Phoenix home Friday and found the security fob inside a bedroom dresser and the wrist lanyard in his car, according to the arrest report.

“The stolen item has been recovered, but to ensure the integrity of Maricopa County Elections, election workers are reprogramming and re-conducting logic and accuracy testing of all equipment,” Liewer said.

What is the purpose of the stolen security fob?

The security fob is used in conjunction with secure tablets at the elections center, according to the arrest report.

“A director at the facility stated that the estimated cost of the reprogramming would be greater than $19,000 dollars, and the secure operation of the facility is greatly impeded until the reprogramming is complete,” probable cause statement report says.

Ringfield told detectives he was fired for allegedly stealing something, according to the arrest report. He allegedly admitted taking the fob but claimed he gave it back after about 20 minutes.

“Walter stated his reason for taking the fob was because he wanted to ‘clean up,’” the probable cause statement says. “Walter said the job was temporary and he was trying to make it permanent, so he wanted to clean up.”

CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story indicated that Walter Ringfield was on probation for a previous felony. However, he was never prosecuted in that case because he entered a felony diversion program instead of going to trial or entering a plea.

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Temporary Maricopa County elections worker arrested after theft from tabulation center