LORENZO ZAZUETA-CASTRO AND DANIEL A. FLORES
EDINBURG — Authorities have now made 20 arrests in connection with alleged illegal voting in the 2017 city election.
In addition to the not guilty pleas from Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina and his wife Dalia Molina during a formal arraignment hearing, Julio Cesar Carranza, a local businessman, also pleaded not guilty to three charges connected to the case.
Carranza’s arrest is the 20th in the investigation that began in earnest after an Edinburg resident made a complaint to the state Attorney General’s office a month after the election results.
It also begins to make clearer some of the potential ties between the current Edinburg mayor and others who’ve been arrested thus far.
A business partner of the Edinburg mayor and a former board member of the Edinburg Economic Development Corporation, Carranza, 33, was indicted Friday morning on charges stemming from a voter fraud investigation in the 2017 Edinburg municipal election.
Carranza was named an alleged co-conspirator in a June indictment filed against Molina. He pleaded not guilty to one count of first-degree felony engaging in organized election fraud and two counts second-degree felony illegal voting.
The indictment alleges Carranza was part of a “vote harvesting” group which “solicited, encouraged, and aided” other people who were not eligible to participate in the city election to vote.
Carranza allegedly aided two people named in the indictment, Karen Michelle Mendez, 23, and Edward Daniel Ramos, 34, voting in the election.
According to the Texas Secretary of State records, Carranza and Molina are managing members of Team Edinburg Investments LLC.
The nature of the company’s practices and business remains unclear.
Web searches for the company revealed little information, only that the city of Edinburg awarded a building permit in March 2017 for the Montemayor Subdivision, multi-family units valued at $210,285 and located at 3009 De la Rosa Road.
But Molina, who appeared publicly in early July for a “Coffee with the Mayor” event, declined to comment on his relationship with Carranza, and would not say if he’s still working with him.
“It doesn’t have anything to do with the city,” Molina said of his business with his alleged co-conspirator.
Asked about any money the city of Edinburg has awarded Carranza by way of contracts, Molina only said that he abstains from voting on any business related to Carranza.
Carranza is also listed as a member for Carranza Development LLC, along with his wife Melissa Yolanda Carranza, according to public records.
The address listed for that business is 2318 Supreme Drive in Edinburg — the same address he and at least one other person accused in the election fraud case, used to register to vote in the 2017 city election, records show.
Julio Carranza is also involved with CWIA Investments LLC, along with his brother Juan Carlos Carranza, who is registered to vote with the address 3411 Blue Stone Street. Although Julio Carranza denied his involvement with this company via text message, Secretary of State records list him as a “member.”
This address was used to vote in the 2017 city election by Ramos, who was named in the indictment as “participating” in a “vote harvesting organization.”
Julio Carranza is also tied to another business, CJE Construction LLC, with his brother Edgar A. Carranza, according to public state records. Edgar’s Kingsforth Realty, LLC is registered at 4119 Crosspoint Blvd. in Edinburg, which is the same address listed for Julio Carranza and Molina’s business venture.
Edgar Carranza is registered to vote at 2503 Wolverine Street in Edinburg, a home he owns, according to county property records. Jerry Gonzalez Jr. is also registered to vote at that address.
Gonzalez was arrested in November of 2018 on one count of illegal voting related to the 2017 city election, jail records show.
Julio Carranza and Gonzalez also work for the same company, Citywide Home Loans, and their Edinburg office, in which Julio is listed as a branch manager, is also located at 4119 Crosspoint Blvd.
After the hearing, Julio Carranza’s attorney, Adolfo “Al” Alvarez, escorted his client to the Hidalgo County jail to be processed.
According to jail records, Julio Carranza was released Friday on a $12,500 personal recognizance bond.