North Carolina political worker pleads not guilty to charges

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FILE – In this Dec. 5, 2018, file photo, Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. poses for a portrait outside of his home in Bladenboro, N.C. Dowless, a political operative already accused in state court of absentee ballot fraud during a 2018 North Carolina congressional election, now faces federal charges of fraudulently receiving Social Security benefits while getting paid for political work, prosecutors said Tuesday, April 21, 2020. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WBTW) – A political operative accused of orchestrating an absentee ballot fraud operation in North Carolina has pleaded not guilty to separate federal charges.

Leslie McCrae Dowless Jr. is accused of hiding from the Social Security Administration over $100,000 in income for work performed for at least two candidates during the 2018 election. No trial date was immediately set after Friday’s plea.

Dowless made his first court appearance on these charges in May.

Dowless was at the center of a state investigation into illegal ballot harvesting in the 9th Congressional District campaign. That district includes Robeson and Scotland Counties.

A trial on state charges against Dowless could occur this summer.

In 2019, a Wake County grand jury handed down many indictments against defendants related to the 2018 ballot irregularities.

Last July, Dowless filed for re-election for a seat with the Bladen Soil & Water Conservation District Supervisors. According to Bladen County’s website, Dowless is currently the district supervisor vice chairman.

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