Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

FBI launches investigation into fraudulent Florida voter letters

TAMPA — The FBI confirmed Wednesday it is investigating fraudulent letters that falsely tell eligible Florida voters they may no longer be U.S. citizens and that they could go to prison if they cast a ballot in the Nov. 6 election.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, which launched an investigation Tuesday, the Department of State, local supervisors of elections and the U.S. Postal Service will assist the FBI, said agency spokesman David Couvertier.

"We're trying to figure out what the trend is, if a specific group of voters was targeted or if it was random," Couvertier said. "What was the motive? Was it a statement or something done to influence the election?"

Beginning Friday, voters throughout the state started receiving letters in envelopes with a Seattle postmark. The letters all have the same type of letterhead, with the American flag as a backdrop to a silhouette of a bald eagle in the upper left corner. The sender swapped out the name of the supervisor of elections depending on which county they were received. As of Wednesday, the letters were sent to at least 28 counties, according to Division of Elections spokesman Chris Cate.

The letters inform recipients they have 15 days to fill out a voter eligibility form and return it to the elections office. If they don't, they'll be removed from the voter rolls, the letter warns.

State officials have interpreted the letters to be a voter intimidation tactic, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in jail for each offense, or each letter sent. The FBI would examine federal offenses, including mail fraud.

"We don't know the extent of the activity yet," Couvertier said. "We're looking at everything from civil rights violations to potentially voter fraud and everything in between."

Couvertier said the Tampa FBI office is working in concert with the other agencies. It covers 18 counties, including Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas, all of which got the letters.

Cate said the best estimate of the number of letters sent are "dozens." The recipients so far tend to be Republican, frequent voters, who may even contribute to campaigns. Ion Sancho, Leon County's supervisor of elections, has speculated that the names may have been lifted from a donor list. Jacksonville City Council president Bill Bishop, former U.S. Ambassador John Rood, and Lenny Curry, the chairman of the Republican Party of Florida, all got one.

But there are exceptions. Of the eight people to receive the letters in Pinellas, half are Republican.

The hoax is a puzzling one. If the letters were meant to intimidate people from voting, why were they sent to leaders of the Republican Party, where they're easier to detect?

"There are a lot of theories out there," Couvertier said. "We'll be going through them one by one."

Anyone who got a letter is asked to call the Tampa FBI field office at 1-866-838-1153.

FBI launches investigation into fraudulent Florida voter letters 10/24/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 25, 2012 10:10am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Steve Kornell says small fix can help St. Pete's sewage problems

    Water

    ST. PETERSBURG— Steve Kornell knows his idea won't put much of a dent in the $326 million bill the city must pay over the next five years to fix its inadequate and outdated sewer system.

    St. Petersburg City Council member Steve Kornell (right) during a 2012 council meeting at City Hall. [SCOTT KEELER  |  Times]
  2. FWC reminds you to mind mating manatees in Tampa Bay

    Wildlife

    Female manatees know what it's like to be sought after — maybe too much so.

    The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is reminding Floridians to be mindful of manatees while they're mating. Interfering in their mating practice could be considered harassment, according to FWC. (FWC)
  3. Celebrity chef/priest comes to town to cook with bishop

    Human Interest

    BRANDON — Gluttony may be one of the seven deadly sins, but Father Leo Patalinghug believes food can break barriers and bring people together.

    And it works.

    Father Leo Patalinghug and Bishop Gregory Parkes of the Diocese of St. Petersburg chat before taping Savoring Our Faith at the Rolling Pin Kitchen Emporium in Brandon on Aug. 16.
  4. Can the Bad Boys Mowers Gasparilla Bowl thrive in competitive sports market?

    Business

    ST. PETERSBURG — It's a funky name: the Bad Boys Mowers Gasparilla Bowl. But the new sponsors for the former St. Petersburg Bowl might need more than an eye-catching name to create a thriving, profitable contest.

    NC State head coach Dave Doeren clutches the championship trophy after winning the Bitcoin Bowl at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg in 2014. Bowl organizers are changing the name of the game to the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.
[

MONICA HERNDON | TIMES]
  5. Dirk Koetter says Bucs used team meeting to discuss social issues

    Bucs

    Four days before their preseason home opener against the Cleveland Browns, which had 12 players not stand for the national anthem prior to their last game, the Bucs used their team meeting to discuss social issues that might have led to that demonstration, coach Dirk Koetter said.

    "The main thing is we have to respect everybody's opinion," Dirk Koetter said, "because everybody is not going to agree." [AP photo]