AUSTIN, Texas – Attorney General Ken Paxton has issued a statement about the arrest of Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina.

Paxton said the Election Fraud Unit in his office has arrested Molina and his wife, Dalia for voter fraud. 

“Molina is charged with orchestrating an organized illegal voting scheme in his own mayoral election,” a news release from Paxton said.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Molina, aged 40, is charged with two counts of illegal voting, second-degree felony, and one count of engaging in organized election fraud activity, a first-degree felony. His wife is charged with illegal voting, a second-degree felony.

“My client and his wife are victims of a power struggle,” said attorney Carlos A. Garcia of Mission, representing Mayor Molina. “We intend to fight these charges, and both of them are absolutely innocent of what the state alleges.”

Paxton said the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office will prosecute both cases with the assistance of the Election Fraud Unit.

According to Paxton’s office, Molina and his wife had numerous voters change their addresses to places they didn’t live – including an apartment complex Molina owns – for the express purpose of voting for Molina in the November 7, 2017, Edinburg municipal election. 

“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 states.

Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina

Paxton said that over the last year, his Election Fraud Unit has led “multiple, widespread and thorough investigations” into allegations and complaints of voter fraud that were formally filed with the Texas Secretary of State and forwarded to the attorney general’s office. 

One of the complaints about voter fraud that was filed with the Secretary of State’s Office came from former Justice of the Peace Mary Alice Palacios, a political rival of Molina. “She has held a political vendetta against me,” Molina said, in May of last year.

Paxton said the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office has cooperated and assisted the Election Fraud Unit in its investigations.

“Voter fraud is an affront to democracy and places the decision-making authority of the Texas electorate in the hands of those who have no right to make those choices,” Paxton said. “Voter apathy is caused by rigged elections with guaranteed outcomes. My office will always do everything it can to protect the integrity of Texas elections and the rights of every legal voter to cast a ballot and have it counted accurately. No one is above the law.”

Paxton expressed his “appreciation for Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez’s commitment to election integrity on this case, as well as several other unrelated voter fraud cases that remain ongoing,” the AG’s news release stated.

“My office is appreciative of the many witnesses who have come forward and cooperated with the investigation, explaining how they were lured by an ambitious candidate into participating in an illegal voting scheme to elect Richard Molina,” District Attorney Rodriguez said. 

“We encourage any additional witnesses who were pressured to engage in fraudulent voting in Molina’s election to step forward and cooperate with authorities. We’re prepared to present a full array of charges against Molina and his co-conspirators to the grand jury for a thorough evaluation of the evidence to ensure justice is served.”

Paxton’s news release said a total of 18 individuals have been arrested in connection with “the Edinburg organized illegal voting scheme” since last year, thanks to the assistance of the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Rangers.

Paxton said that between 2005-2017, the attorney general’s office prosecuted 97 defendants for numerous voter fraud violations. 

In fiscal year 2018, the Election Fraud Unit – with assistance from a criminal justice grant from the governor’s office – prosecuted 33 defendants for a total of 97 election fraud violations. 

“There are currently 75 active election fraud investigations, along with 63 counts of election crimes pending prosecution, in the attorney general’s Election Fraud Unit,” the news release added.

Editor’s Note: Click here for the USA Today story on the arrest. The story has a video from Molina protesting his innocence. In the video, Molina states: “The opposition may not like it but the facts are the facts. I won that (mayoral) race (against incumbent Richard Garcia) by more than 1,240 votes. A handful of weak accusations will not change the outcome.” 

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above news story shows Edinburg Mayor Richard Molina flanked by U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, both of Texas. The photo was taken in Washington, D.C., by Ron Whitlock of Ron Whitlock Reports during the RGV to DC tour last June. Molina was in Washington to fight for more funding for Edinburg and the Rio Grande Valley.