A former Texas police captain has been arrested after he drove an air conditioning repairman off the road and held him at gunpoint over false election fraud claims.
Mark Aguirre said he believed the driver was transporting 750,000 fake ballots.
Instead, all he was carrying was air conditioning parts and tools.
The 63-year-old was hired to investigate pre-election voter fraud by a group of private citizens.
Despite repeated allegations of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election spearheaded by incumbent President Donald Trump, his Republicans have produced scant evidence.
Their claims have taken centre stage in Texas, where key Republican officials and their allies have made several unsuccessful attempts to overturn President-elect Joe Biden’s now-certified victory, frequently relying on far-flung and unsubstantiated theories.
Who was masterminding the operation?
Mark Aguirre was hired earlier this year by a Houston-based group called the Liberty Center for God & Country, according to a statement from the Harris County District Attorney’s office.
The group paid about 20 private investigators hundreds of thousands of dollars to uncover alleged voter fraud across the state.
Mr Aguirre received $266,000 (£197,000) – $211,000 deposited into his account the day after the incident.
According to Harris County District police, Mr Aguirre put surveillance on the repairman for four days, convinced he was “the mastermind of a giant fraud”.
On 19 October, he slammed his SUV into the back of the man’s truck to force him off the road and threatened him with a handgun, placing his knee on the man’s back.
When police officers responded to Mr Aguirre’s call, he told them the repair truck contained fraudulent ballots. When no ballots were found, Mr Aguirre himself was arrested for assault.
If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison.
“He crossed the line from dirty politics to commission of a violent crime and we are lucky no-one was killed,” said Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg, in her statement.
“His alleged investigation was backward from the start – first alleging a crime had occurred and then trying to prove it happened.”
Mr Aguirre is a 24-year veteran of the Houston police force, who was fired in 2003 after he led a failed parking lot raid.
He has since run a private investigation company.
Liberty Center’s CEO, Steven Hotze, is a right-wing activist who filed two unsuccessful lawsuits to have over 100,000 ballots thrown out in Harris County earlier this year, according to the Texas Tribune.