EDINBURG — Mayor Richard Molina’s grand jury indictment last week identifies previously unreported individuals accused of conspiring in an organized voter harvesting scheme.
The grand jury indicted Molina on one count of engaging in first-degree felony organized election fraud and 11 counts of second-degree felony illegal voting.
The charges stem from an investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s Office into the city’s November 2017 municipal elections, in which Molina is alleged to have “aided, solicited, and encouraged” cooperating co-conspirators to illegally vote.
A cooperating co-conspirator accuses Molina of expressly outlining: “a strategy of changing people’s voter registration addresses to addresses located inside the city limits of Edinburg, Texas at residences where people did not actually reside in an effort to increase the number of voters who could vote for Richard Molina and to win the election,” according to the criminal complaint.
Multiple cooperating co-conspirators, who live outside city limits, told state investigators that they would not have falsely changed their voter registration addresses had Molina not allegedly told them to do so, according to the complaint.
The documents filed June 6 list Julio Carranza, Oralia Leal, Adolfo Cantu, Richard Ramirez, Aracli Ramirez, Erica Molina, Edward Ramos, Jerry Gonzalez Jr. and Karen Mendez as having allegedly collaborated with Molina and his wife Dalia.
Gonzalez’s November 2018 arrest is one of 19 arrests made in the Edinburg voter fraud probe.
Daniel Castillo, Victor Prado III, Dyandra Valle and Ricardo Martinez Jr. were named in the indictment as voters who Molina allegedly helped vote illegally, but aren’t identified as conspirators.
Carranza, named as an alleged co-conspirator, is a former economic development board member who, along with three others, resigned simultaneously on March 22, 2018, citing time constraints. Edinburg council members Molina, Gilbert Enriquez, Jorge Luis Salinas and David Torres voted themselves in to replace the exiting trio, leaving school district trustee Mike Farias as the sole EDC board member who didn’t also sit on the council, at the time.
The council removed Enriquez from the EDC board in April because he was asking too many questions, he told The Monitor.
“My suspicion is that they just didn’t feel comfortable with me questioning things that were being done, the money that was being spent,” Enriquez told The Monitor following his removal. “I think they don’t like transparency. They don’t want the taxpayer to know exactly where their tax dollars are going.”
Less than two weeks after Carranza resigned, the city council voted to award Carranza’s company, Carranza Development LLC, $58,625 to reconstruct a residence at 2506 Longoria Lane as part of the Housing Assistance Program on April 3, 2018.
The city established the bid could be kept open for 60 days beginning March 5, 2018, according to the city’s notice. But less than a month later, the proposal went before the council.
“…One (1) contractor participating … met specifications and bid requirements,” according to documents from the April 3, 2018 council meeting. “Staff recommends awarding bid to sole bidder being Carranza Development, LLC.”
Carranza was unavailable for comment Monday about being named in Molina’s indictment and the contract awarded to his company.