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Letters intimidating voters tied to GOP candidate

GARDEN GROVE, Calif. – State investigators on Friday searched an office of a Republican congressional candidate whose campaign mailed thousands of intimidating letters to Hispanic immigrant voters.

About 10 uniformed California Department of Justice agents arrived with a search warrant and could be seen opening cabinets, scouring desks and packing up a computer inside the storefront campaign office of Tan D. Nguyen, a Vietnamese immigrant trying to unseat a popular Democratic incumbent.

Nguyen has acknowledged that his campaign sent the letter, which wrongly said immigrants could be jailed if they voted. He blamed a campaign worker he said he has fired.

Nguyen has resisted calls from leaders in his own party to quit the race, saying he did not approve the letter and did not know about it.

State and federal officials have been investigating the mailing for possible violations of election or civil rights law.

Nguyen was not in the Garden Grove office when agents arrived.

County Republican Chairman Scott Baugh said Thursday that after speaking with state investigators and the company that distributed the “obnoxious and reprehensible” mailer, he concluded that Nguyen was personally involved. He said the party’s executive committee voted unanimously to urge Nguyen to drop out of the race against Democratic Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

The letter, written in Spanish, was mailed to an estimated 14,000 Democratic voters in central Orange County. It warns, “You are advised that if your residence in this country is illegal or you are an immigrant, voting in a federal election is a crime that could result in jail time.” In fact, immigrants who are adult naturalized citizens are eligible to vote.