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Fort Bend County candidate under second investigation for online impersonation of district judge

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) — The challenger running for Fort Bend County Precinct 3 commissioner who was charged last month for allegedly faking racist social media posts against himself is under investigation again for a similar crime.

A new search warrant filed by investigators on Monday claims Taral Patel, 30, impersonated a district judge using a fake Facebook profile, the same one who was coincidentally assigned to preside over his first case.

Patel was first arrested by the Texas Rangers on June 12 for online impersonation and a Class A misdemeanor charge for misrepresentation of identity, which is found under the Texas Election Code.

According to arrest warrant documents, Pct. 3 Commissioner Andy Meyers requested the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office (FBCDAO) launch an investigation in October regarding the source behind several social media posts directed at Patel, his opponent.

This came after Patel issued a statement on his social media accounts with a collage of racist posts that he claimed were directed at him. The FBCDAO linked one of those accounts under the fake name of “Antonio Scalywag” back to Patel, after issuing a subpoena to Facebook and Google.

Investigators noticed that the Scalywag account was Facebook friends with Judge Surendran Pattel, who oversees Fort Bend County’s 240th district court. The fake profile communicated with Pattel’s page, posting several “complimentary” comments and even had a conversation through private messages.

The conversation appeared friendly until Judge Pattel appeared upset with something Scalywag had posted publicly. According to the warrant, in November 2023, Scalywag’s messages to the judge went unanswered.

When authorities confiscated Patel’s cell phone during his arrest last month, they found that it contained an impersonated Facebook account for Judge Pattel. The fake profile has been up since at least December 2023 and is linked to one of Patel’s email addresses.

When investigators showed Judge Pattel the Facebook page, he stated that he did not create the profile nor authorize anyone else to create it on his behalf. He said that his name and photo were used without his consent.

Coincidentally, this is the same judge that was assigned to oversee Patel’s first case. Court records show Patel has since been reassigned to a different judge.

In a statement to ABC13, Judge Pattel wrote, “What is revealed in the public record is alarming and unsettling.”

However, he declined to answer questions about whether he knew Patel or had any interactions with him.

A spokesperson for the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office said Patel could potentially face a second third-degree felony charge for online impersonation, depending on what the FBDAO finds in contents requested from the search warrant.

Patel’s next court appearance is scheduled for July 22. He did not respond to requests for comment.

The Fort Bend County Democrats said that so far, nothing has changed with Patel’s candidacy filing.