On Wednesday, July 3, 2024, the Houston Chronicle reported that Taral Patel, a Democratic candidate for Fort Bend County Precinct 3 commissioner, was accused of engaging in further acts of online impersonation beyond the initial charges against him.

Patel was previously arrested on June 12th and charged with felony online impersonation and misrepresentation of identity after allegedly creating a fake Facebook account under the name “Antonio Scalywag” to send himself racist messages. Investigators have since uncovered evidence that Patel also set up a fake Facebook profile pretending to be Judge Surendran Pattel of the Fort Bend County 240th Criminal District Court.

A new search warrant application filed on July 1st stated that the purpose of accessing the fake judge’s Facebook account was to determine if additional charges should be filed against Patel. The warrant described how the fake “Judge Pattel” profile initially engaged in friendly conversation with the real judge’s authentic Facebook page, but that the tone changed in January 2022 and escalated to the fake profile sending unanswered messages to the judge in November 2023.

Investigators discovered the fake judicial profile during a search of Patel’s phone after his initial June 12th arrest. The profile was reportedly connected to one of Patel’s email addresses. When authorities showed the real Judge Pattel screenshots of the fake account, Pattel confirmed he did not create the profile nor authorize anyone else to do so. He also stated that his name and photo were used without permission.

As Patel was originally scheduled to have his case heard by Judge Pattel, a new judge has now been assigned to oversee the criminal proceedings.

The alleged impersonations have become politically controversial as well, with Patel’s opponent in the Precinct 3 commissioner’s race, Republican Andy Meyers, arguing that the negative publicity surrounding the false racism allegations could damage Fort Bend County’s reputation and economy.

 

 

Source: Houston Chronicle