Texas officials announced that charges have been filed against what state Attorney General Ken Paxton said was an “organized voter fraud ring” operating in Fort Worth.
Four women were indicted on 30 felony counts in connection with the investigation, which involved efforts to prey on elderly voters in the 2016 election.
“Ballots by mail are intended to make it easier for Texas seniors to vote,” Paxton said in a news release Friday announcing the arrests. “The unfortunate downside is their extreme vulnerability to fraud.
“My office is committed to ensuring that paid vote harvesters who fraudulently generate mail ballots, stealing votes from seniors, are held accountable for their despicable actions and for the damage they inflict on the electoral process.”
NEW: Four women in ‘voter fraud ring’ arrested. They targeted seniors. Texas will put election thieves in jail. If anyone cheats in elections they will be prosecuted. @KenPaxtonTX #txlege #tcot #PJNET https://t.co/GLaKgGxaCT
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) October 13, 2018
The news release said Leticia Sanchez was indicted on one count of illegal voting, a second-degree felony, in addition to 16 felony counts of providing false information on an application for a mail ballot. A second person, Leticia Sanchez Tepichin, was indicted on 10 counts of providing false information on an application for a mail ballot. Maria Solis was indicted on two counts of the same charge, while Laura Parra was indicted on one count.
The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported that Sanchez and Tepichin are accused of requesting “ballots by mail for the Democratic Party for 2016 elections for 13 people who had made no such requests.”
Texas officials found that “fraudulent applications were generated through forged signatures and by altering historical applications and resubmitting them without the knowledge of the voters.”
“Many of the voters were forced to cancel their ballots in order to be able to vote in person, and some were forced into receiving primary ballots for the political party supported by the harvesters, though it was not the party the voters wanted to vote for,” Paxton’s news release said.
The Public Interest Legal Foundation said the case is evidence that new steps are needed to fight fraud.
Texas must build #VoterID elements into the mail voting system to cut down on illegal ballot harvesting and assistance.
— PublicInterestLegal (@PILFoundation) October 12, 2018
Some of the fraud targets spoke to KXAS-TV in Dallas-Fort Worth about the case.
“I don’t send paperwork to vote,” said Rafael Guerra, whose wife, Hortesia, listed as one of those whose signature was falsified on a mail-in ballot application. “We vote in person, so I don’t know if somebody got the information from somebody or what. I don’t have the slightest idea.”
Another victim of the fraud scheme was Julia Betancourt. Her grandson-in-law, Nicholas Martin, said he was glad the fraud ring has been broken.
“I think the frustrating part … is taking advantage of someone who is elderly and falsifying to get ballots and vote illegally in her name,” Martin told KXAS-TV. “It gives you a good feeling knowing that they were able to prosecute these individuals.”
The news release said the effort to break the rules began by getting ballots mailed to targeted addresses.
“When ballots are mailed out by the election offices, harvesters attempt to either intercept the ballots outright, or to ‘assist’ elderly voters in voting their ballots while ensuring that the votes are cast for the candidates of the harvesters’ choice,” it said. “In most cases, the voters do not even know their votes have been stolen.”
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.