Advertisement
  1. Florida Politics

FBI launches investigation into fraudulent Florida voter letters

Published Oct. 25, 2012

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.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. [SKIP O'ROURKE   | Times]
    It’s unclear if there will be any proposed changes to this method for measuring teachers’ impact on their students’ performance, despite complaints.
  2. Ron DeSantis, the Republican nominee for governor, announces his education proposals in front of Franklin Middle Magnet School in Tampa last month. He says he wants to reduce "bureaucratic waste and administrative inefficiency" in Florida schools. But many educators say their budgets are already cut to the bone. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
    DeSantis said Wednesday he will call for expanding state oversight of septic tanks, developing better oversight of wastewater and stormwater systems and requiring the state to track agricultural...
  3. In this Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, file photo, a woman using an electronic cigarette exhales in Mayfield Heights, Ohio. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File) TONY DEJAK  |  AP
    “We’re looking at it, we’re going to be thorough in our investigation, and we will hold accountable any companies that are intentionally targeting and misleading our youth regarding vaping products,”...
  4. From left to right: Igor Fruman, Lev Parnas, President Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani. Miami Herald
    David Correia, who worked with Rudy Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, is now in federal custody and will be arraigned Thursday before U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken in Manhattan federal cour
  5. Hurricane Michael, which made landfall in Mexico Beach last year, left wide swaths of destruction across the Florida Panhandle. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    Darcy Abbott, a longtime official at the state Agency for Health Care Administration and Department of Health, will coordinate several agencies’ mental health responses to disasters and emergencies.
  6. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, from left, businessman Tom Steyer, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN/New York Times at Otterbein University, Tuesday in Westerville, Ohio. JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    Several statements from the candidates drew scrutiny.
  7. Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden, left, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., participate in a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by CNN/New York Times at Otterbein University, Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Westerville, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) JOHN MINCHILLO  |  AP
    Impeachment dominates. Bernie Sanders looks fine. Biden defends his son. And Elizabeth Warren is finally being treated like a frontrunner.
  8. This combination of Wednesday, Oct. 9, 2019, photos provided by the Alexandria Sheriff’s Office shows booking photos of Lev Parnas, left, and Igor Fruman. The associates of Rudy Giuliani, were arrested on a four-count indictment that includes charges of conspiracy, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and falsification of records. The men had key roles in Giuliani's efforts to launch a Ukrainian corruption investigation against Biden and his son, Hunter. (Alexandria Sheriff's Office via AP) AP
    One takeaway: there are still unanswered questions.
  9. Debris from homes destroyed by Hurricane Michael litters the ground in Mexico Beach. A year after Hurricane Michael, Bay County, Florida, is still in crisis. Thousands are homeless, medical care and housing are at a premium, and domestic violence is increasing. Michael was among the strongest hurricanes ever to make landfall in the United States. GERALD HERBERT  |  AP
    Senators for the first time seriously addressed the complaints of people in the Panhandle on Tuesday.
  10. Marijuana plants grow in a greenhouse environment in this room at the Curaleaf Homestead Cultivation Facility. This environment controls the amount of natural sunlight and artificial light the plants are exposed to, as well as the temperature. EMILY MICHOT  |  Miami Herald
    An Atlanta broker is listing one license for $40 million and the other for $55 million.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement