Arrests in Tarrant County
The Office of the Attorney General of Texas has made 4 arrests for organized voter fraud in North Fort Worth. Direct Action Texas first went public with the Tarrant County voter fraud activity in October 2016. 3 years ago, this month, DAT filed its first complaint with the OAG regarding ballot harvesting in Tarrant County. With this case we can hope that while the wheels of justice turn very slowly, they appear to be turning none the less.
The indictments include Leticia Sanchez (16 counts), Leticia Sanchez Tepichin (10 counts / 1st Leticia’s daughter), Maria Solis (two counts) and Laura Parra (one count). The indictments are all from elections in 2016 – the democrat primary and the Fort Worth Charter election. Of note is the absence of indictments from the 2015 TRWD election. The absence of those is due to the fact that Tarrant County shredded all the applications and carriers from that election after learning we were investigating it, but prior to the AG sending a retention letter. According to storage records we have obtained, Tarrant County has those records in storage for every election back to 2010, except the 2015 TRWD race.
Sanchez, Tepichin, Solis, and Parra are all female Hispanic canvassers who work in what is called “ballot harvesting” operations. D Magazine explained how ballot harvesting works in an article last year which featured our work in exposing it.
The four women indicted all share something in common – they have worked campaigns where Linebarger, Goggin, Sampson and Associates had a particular interest. These are mostly city council and school board races where Linebarger is the major player in collecting unpaid property taxes. The races where DAT has documented heavy harvesting include TRWD, Fort Worth City Council (Sal Espino), and Fort Worth ISD.
The reason is simple.
DAT obtained a copy of a letter from Mario Perez, a Linebarger operative, to his boss, Steve Meeks, Linebarger’s managing partner. In THIS LETTER Mario asks for a raise. In justifying the raise, he lists the cities and ISDs whose accounts he has secured for Linebarger. In the letter he explains the reason he has been successful at securing the accounts is his “close relationship with excellent candidates who were able to defeat incumbent trustees at FWISD. These new trustees came into the district willing to challenge the established order”. Notice he mentions his relationship was with CANDIDATES. In other words, he worked to put folks in office who would vote them the contract. In order to do so, he used methods and people like the 4 indicted today.
We have previously shown that the fraudulent applications in these cases were faxed from the law offices of Sal Espino. Shortly after we first announced our complaint, Sal decided to not seek reelection. Pilar Candia, who ran Sal’s campaign, is the most common actor one will find when discussing these activities with operatives, voters, and citizens of Fort Worth’s Northside. (More on Pilar in a future article or indictment.) These activities and the actors in them are well known to members of the local community. When I first knocked on Leticia Sanchez’s door in 2015 she came to the door wearing a Sal Espino for FTW City Council shirt. Once I explained why I wanted to talk to her, she said she would have to get clearance from Sal Espino and Ramon Romero (dem State Rep District 90). Coincedence? Whether the OAG has further indictments which include Sal, Pilar, and others is yet to been seen. What we do know is there is a big gap between what we know happened and what can be proved in court. This keeps many bad actors out of court, but not from being guilty.
Hopefully with today’s indictments and following prosecutions, the downtown community will once and for all stop denying the activities and take a serious approach to ending this affront to our election process.
You can read the Attorney General’s statement below. We’ll have more to say about this over the coming weeks.
Work of AG Paxton’s Election Fraud Unit Results in Arrests of 4 Members ofOrganized Voter Fraud Ring in North Fort WorthAUSTIN – Attorney General Ken Paxton today announced that four individuals were indicted on 30 felony counts of voter fraud and arrested following a lengthy investigation by the Election Fraud Unit of his office. The defendants – all members of an organized voter fraud ring – were paid to target elderly voters in certain north-side Fort Worth precincts in a scheme to generate a large number of mail ballots, and then harvest those ballots for specific candidates in 2016.“Ballots by mail are intended to make it easier for Texas seniors to vote. The unfortunate downside is their extreme vulnerability to fraud,” Attorney General Paxton said. “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.”Leticia Sanchez was indicted on one count of illegal voting, a second-degree felony punishable by a prison term of two to 20 years, if convicted. All defendants in the case face state jail felony charges of providing false information on an application for a mail ballot – Sanchez (16 counts), Leticia Sanchez Tepichin (10 counts), Maria Solis (two counts) and Laura Parra (one count).Vote harvesting is accomplished generally in two phases: seeding and harvesting. In the seeding phase, applications for mail ballot are proliferated in order to blanket targeted precincts with mail ballots. Then, when ballots are mailed out by the election offices, harvesters attempt either to 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. In most cases, the voters do not even know their votes have been stolen.An investigation into the Fort Worth voter fraud ring by the attorney general’s office determined that fraudulent applications were generated through forged signatures and by altering historical applications and resubmitting them without the knowledge of the voters. Harvesters also used deception to obtain signatures from 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.From 2005-2017, the attorney general’s office prosecuted 97 defendants for numerous voter fraud violations. This year alone, Attorney General Paxton’s Election Fraud Unit – with assistance from a criminal justice grant from the governor’s office – has prosecuted 33 defendants for a total of 97 election fraud violations. In February, the attorney general announced a significant voter fraud initiative and addressed key problems and policy areas related to election law.