Each defendant voted in a federal election in 2016, and one defendant also voted in 2018, according to a news release from United States Attorney Matthew G.T. Martin’s office.
Seven of the foreign nationals face federal felony charges including falsely claiming U.S. citizenship or making false statements on voter registration application, and with misdemeanor charges of unlawfully casting ballots in the 2016 presidential election. If convicted, those individuals face maximum penalties of six years in federal prison and up to a $350,000 fine.
The other 12 were charged with misdemeanors for unlawfully casting ballots in the 2016 presidential election. If convicted, they face a maximum term of one-year imprisonment, a fine not to exceed $100,000, or both.
The news release said the matters had been investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, an investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.
The Associated Press attempted to contact all defense attorneys who were listed, reaching only two.
Helen Parsonage, who is representing three of the defendants, declined comment on the merits of the charges but said her clients would be “vigorously defended.”
“These cases are clearly timed for partisan political purposes,” she wrote in an email.
Another attorney, J. Scott Coalter, declined comment on his client’s behalf but noted he found it “rare to have the U.S. attorney for the Middle District handling misdemeanor cases.”
The indictments stem from an ongoing HSI investigation that previously resulted in separate indictments in the Eastern District of North Carolina in August 2018.
Adapted from reporting by Associated Press.