Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina has been arrested for voter fraud, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced Thursday morning, the latest in a string of arrests the state’s election fraud unit has made in connection with what Paxton described as “an organized illegal voting scheme” in the November 2017 municipal election that brought Molina to power.
According to a news release from the attorney general’s office, Molina directed voters to change their addresses to places where they did not live — including an apartment complex owned by Molina — so they could vote for him. Molina, hailed as an “anti-establishment” outsider, won the election by 1,240 votes, unseating incumbent Mayor Richard Garcia in the South Texas town.
Molina and his wife, Dalia, turned themselves in Thursday morning, according to local reports, and he received a $20,000 cash bond for three illegal voting charges, one of them a first-degree felony.
A total of 18 people have been arrested in connection with the scheme, according to the attorney general’s office.
Through spokespeople, Molina maintained his innocence.
“My client and his wife are victims of a power struggle,” attorney Carlos A. Garcia of Mission, who represents Richard Molina, told a local newspaper Thursday. “We intend to fight these charges, and both of them are absolutely innocent of what the state alleges.”
City spokeswoman Cary Zayas said Molina “very adamantly denies any wrongdoing” and added that “the city is supportive of the mayor.”
Molina, who could not immediately be reached for comment, released a Facebook video last year dismissing the investigation as politically motivated. The formal voter fraud complaint that sparked the investigation, Molina claimed in the video, was filed by a political enemy who holds a “political vendetta against me.”
“Why have local authorities only targeted people who supported me?” Molina questioned. “The people of Edinburg voted loud and clear in November 2017. They voted for change. They voted for me. … A handful of weak accusations will not change the outcome.”