Defense Attorney Says Voter Fraud Charges Against Fort Worth Women Are Political

Four Fort Worth women who were indicted on voter fraud charges last week were simply trying to help people vote and the case against them is political, a defense attorney said Thursday.

"They were canvassing,” said attorney Greg Westfall. “They were getting out the vote and helping people with their mail-in ballots."

Westfall is the only attorney listed in court records for any of the women. He represents Leticia Sanchez Tepichin whose mother Leticia Sanchez also is charged in the case.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced last week the “organized voter fraud ring” faces 30 felony counts.

"I think these women are being used as a political football to suppress voter turnout,” Westfall said, noting the investigation began almost exactly two years earlier. "I wonder does the attorney general's office work outside the second week of October every other year in an election year. Because the delay here, I can't even imagine the explanation."

One of the alleged victims is a 76-year-old blind woman, Minnie Barela, who remembered a visit from a stranger two years ago.

"When she knocked on the door she said she was helping people to vote and I said, 'OK,’” Barela said in an interview Thursday.

Barela said the woman, identified in the indictment as Leticia Sanchez, helped her fill out a mail-in ballot and also encouraged her to fill one out for her boyfriend who was in a nursing home.

"She said you can sign his name,” Barela said. “I said, ‘No, I can't sign for him.’ She said, 'Yeah, nobody would know.'"

Prosecutors said the women were paid to target elderly voters in North Fort Worth to generate a large number of mail-in ballots in support of specific candidates in 2016. They did not identify which candidates or the source of the money.

A spokeswoman for the attorney general declined to comment on the case Thursday.

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