Suspicious California voter registrations led FBI to Back of the Yards home in 2018

Though an FBI investigation revolved around the suspicious voter registrations out west, a newly unsealed document does not allege the registrations led to cast ballots.

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Dirksen Federal Courthouse

Sun-Times file

An FBI investigation into potential fraud and identity theft within California’s online voter registration system led two years ago to a home in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood, recently unsealed court records show.

There, authorities say they collected “election mail,” county recorder documents and “California voter registrations” during a search in May 2018 in the 5200 block of South Paulina Street. 

But the investigation does not appear to have led to any criminal charges yet. The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago declined to comment, and representatives of the California Secretary of State’s office did not answer questions about the case.

An individual identified in the search warrant application unsealed last week detailing the investigation could not be reached by the Chicago Sun-Times. He is not being identified because records do not show that he has been charged with a crime.

Though the investigation revolves around the suspicious registration of California voters ahead of a June 2018 primary vote, the unsealed document does not allege that those registrations led to cast ballots.

The FBI began its investigation in September 2017, according to an attached affidavit from a special agent. The California Secretary of State had flagged 52 voter registrations submitted between May and November of that year, it said. Though the registrations included the name and home address for “a current or former legitimate resident of California,” all 52 also listed the same Chicago mailing address in the Back of the Yards.

Fifty of those voter registrations also listed the same phone number, which the agent said was subscribed to by someone receiving mail at the Back of the Yards address.

Each registration required a signature through the mail for the voter to be considered active, according to the affidavit. It said 14 such signatures had been received by March 19, 2018, and those registrations had been changed to active status. In four of those cases, the agent wrote, “the legitimate California resident resubmitted the voter application, overriding the information supplied by the Chicago resident.”

The FBI agent also wrote that California officials gave him a copy of the front of an envelope addressed to the Napa County Clerk, Registrar of Voters. Though the handwritten return address gave a California address, the envelope appeared to be processed at a post office in Bedford Park.

A California Secretary of State investigator told the FBI she made contact with 21 of the 52 voters who had been registered. Nineteen of them said they had not filled out the voter registration, and 18 of those said they had not given permission to anyone else to do it.

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