Florida sheriffs, FBI investigating emails threatening voters

The messages appear to have been sent from outside the U.S.

October 21, 2020, 5:05 PM

Florida law enforcement and the FBI are investigating threatening emails allegedly sent from outside the United States to registered Democrats. The emails claimed to be from by a member of the Proud Boys, according to authorities, something the group denies.

According to sheriff's offices in both Brevard County and Alachua County, the sender claims to belong to the "alt-right" group and be in possession of a voter's personal information.

The Brevard County Sheriff's Office said the email addressed the voter by name, then stated: "We are in possession of all your information. You are currently registered as a Democrat and we know this because we have gained access into the entire voting infrastructure. You will vote for Trump on Election Day or we will come after you."

"In America, every registered voter is afforded the right to participate in the electoral process and deserves to do so without intimidation or influence," Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said. "Please know that everyone in our community is safe to go to the polls throughout the election process, and while these emails appear concerning, the investigation to date has determined the emails originated from outside the continental United States and are not considered a valid threat."

PHOTO: Florida residents vote on the first day of early voting in Miami, Oct. 19, 2020.
Florida residents vote on the first day of early voting in Miami, Oct. 19, 2020.
Mario Cruz/EPA/REX via Shutterstock

The Proud Boys have denied any involvement in the incident.

"It definitely wasn't us," Enrique Tarrio, international chairman of the Proud Boys, told ABC News.

"Proud Boys never use a mass e-mail or mass SMS system to even relay messages to our own supporters, let alone emails from a voter roll, which is apparently where they got that from," Tarrio said. "We'd never do that, and I hope that this person does a long time in prison for doing it, 'cause they did intimidate voters."

The Alachua County Sheriff's Office wrote in a Facebook post that the threatening emails may just be a scam. Sgt. Frank Kinsey told ABC News they're still investigating the origins of the emails.

"It's going to be a digital forensics investigation, and tracking back that information through the Internet and see what kind of cookies or little crumbles we can find, piecing it all together," Kinsey added. "We are working with our federal partners in exchanging information in order to work on finding the origin."

PHOTO: A man wearing a "Proud Boys" shirt arrives for a presidential town hall event at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Oct. 15, 2020.
A man wearing a "Proud Boys" shirt arrives for a presidential town hall event at the Perez Art Museum in Miami, Oct.15, 2020.
Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

The FBI said in a statement to ABC News, in part, that "standard practice is to neither confirm nor deny any investigation," but that the bureau does "take all election-related threats seriously."

Chris Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Agency, a branch of the Department of Homeland Security, said in a tweet the agency was aware of the emails and "not a moment too soon."

Krebs urged Americans to visit the department's Rumor Control page, which is designed to debunk disinformation tactics aimed at voters in the buildup to Election Day.

John Cohen, former acting undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security and an ABC News contributor, said that "regardless of how the e-mail was sent out, the effect will be the same -- potentially thousands of voters may feel intimidated and scared to vote."

"Law enforcement is investigating a number of scenarios," Cohen added, "whether this email originated domestically, whether it was terrorism, or whether it originated abroad by a foreign entity or individual that was able to compromise the Proud Boys' account."

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