The mayor of a small Texas border town was arrested and charged with election fraud and illegal voting on Thursday.
Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina and his wife both faced accusations stemming from Molina's 2017 election. Richard Molina faced two counts of illegal voting -- second-degree felonies -- and one count of engaging in organized election fraud, a first-degree felony. His wife, Dalia, faced one count of illegal voting.
The Texas Attorney General’s office called it an illegal voting scheme. It alleged the Molinas encouraged voters to change their addresses to places where they did not live, including an apartment complex Molina owned, so they could vote for him.
“His vote-harvesting scheme involved the participation of paid campaign workers, among others. Molina won the election, unseating long-time Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia by 1,240 votes,” the news release said.
They mayor and his wife surrendered to authorities and appeared before a justice of the peace Thursday. They were released on bond.
Criminal complaints released by the court detailed alleged accounts of an unidentified person who admitted to voting in the 2017 election under false information with Molina’s help.
One instance said a person listed as “Person A” explained that Molina approached the person in October 2017 to falsify information on a voter’s registration form.
“During the interview, PERSON A admitted that PERSON A voted on October 26, 2017, during early voting, in the November 7, 2017 Edinburg Municipal Election and voluntarily provided Affiant with information showing that PERSON A was not eligible to vote in said election and that PERSON A illegally voted in said election,” the complaint explained.
It also said the true address listed by “Person A” was not inside the Edinburg city limits, making him ineligible to vote in the election.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the city of Edinburg said Molina adamantly denied any wrongdoing.
“He and his attorney will review what was presented in court today, and the Mayor will address the situation himself sometime early next week. It is business as usual in Edinburg. Today’s events have no impact on the City’s day to day operations,” spokeswoman Cary Zayas said.
Former Edinburg Mayor Richard Garcia was unseated in the election. On Facebook Thursday, he said he was not surprised by Thursday’s incidents but he was not glad either.
“In spite of many immediate and obvious discrepancies at the time of the election, I did not contest the outcome. I believe in our democracy with every fiber of my being,” Garcia said. “This is why a day like today is not a victory for anyone. It is an assault on the very democracy and the democratic process that we hold so dear to our hearts and for which so many of us and our loved ones have fought to conserve.”
Eighteen other people have already been arrested in connection with the alleged scheme over the last year. The Brownsville Herald reported many of those arrests took place in 2018.