Elections

Attorneys accuse AG Paxton of seeking voter fraud charges to suppress minority vote

Attorneys for voter fraud suspect speak out

Attorneys for a woman accused along with her mother of taking part in a voter fraud ring that targeted the elderly in north Fort Worth say the women are "political footballs" being kicked around by those who was to suppress minority votes.
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Attorneys for a woman accused along with her mother of taking part in a voter fraud ring that targeted the elderly in north Fort Worth say the women are "political footballs" being kicked around by those who was to suppress minority votes.

Recent charges alleging that four women are part of an organized voter fraud ring on the city’s north side — announced just weeks before the Nov. 6 midterm election — are political moves geared to diminish minority voting in one of the state’s reddest counties, two attorneys allege.

“They are political footballs being kicked back and forth by people who have a vested interest in suppressing minority vote,” said Greg Westfall, who along with Frank Sellers is representing one of the women, Leticia Sanchez Tepichin. “They are mothers and grandmothers. They are active in the community.

“They are being used by people who want to justify voter ID,” he said. “At the end of the day, there’s not going to be any fraud in this deal.”

These comments come one week after Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office announced that four people were arrested — Tepichin, her mother Leticia Sanchez, Maria Solis and Laura Parra — after being indicted on dozens of felony counts of voter fraud.

The women allegedly were paid to target older voters on the north side “in a scheme to generate a large number of mail ballots and then harvest those ballots for specific candidates in 2016,” according to the AG’s statement.

“The timeline speaks to this being political,” Westfall said.

He and Sellers note that news reports first were published about the state’s investigation regarding voter fraud in Tarrant County in October 2016, weeks before that year’s presidential election.

And news of the indictments and arrests came this month, just weeks before the 2018 midterm election.

Early voting starts Monday and runs through Nov. 2.

Voter fraud ring

State investigators indicated they began looking into a voter fraud ring and found that so-called fraudulent applications were created by forging signatures, changing information on the applications and then resubmitting them without the knowledge of voters.

In one case, they allege Sanchez, the mother, actually marked a ballot without the voter’s consent.

The complaints focused on mail-in ballots, which let people vote at home without any ID or verification of identity.

In 2016, as the investigation began, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted: “Largest Voter Fraud Investigation in Texas History Underway in Tarrant County. We will crush illegal voting.”

But that’s not what is happening, Westfall said.

“The governor says that, ‘OK, we’ve got a big problem in Tarrant County,’” he said. “I disagree.”

“It is a political maneuver three weeks outside of the election to suppress the vote,” he said. “These folks are being used.”

Fort Worth ties

Tepichin, a Mexico-trained dentist, and her mother are members of St. Paul Lutheran Church, where Sanchez led the Hispanic ministry and conducted a Sunday Bible class in Spanish. Tepichin is involved in church activities and has traveled to other countries on various mission trips.

Both women are in the country legally, the attorneys say.

Sanchez, a teacher assistant at Como Elementary, is on leave but still employed by the Fort Worth school district. Tepichin works as a teacher assistant at Richard Wilson Elementary but is also on leave, said Clint Bond, a spokesman with the Fort Worth school district.

The attorneys describe the mother and daughter as highly respected in their communities. Now, the attorneys say, they’re “extremely frightened.”

“They are legitimately good, helpful people,” Sellers said.

“This has been very hard on their families and very hard on them,” he added. “These people have never been in trouble a day in their lives.”

Westfall said he believes “we can put together a jury in Tarrant County that will see through this.”

He predicts the case will either end in dismissal of the charges or a trial.

“I can guarantee you that it’s not going to end up in a plea,” Westfall said.

Anna Tinsley: 817-390-7610, @annatinsley
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