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Wilmington donor wants millions returned after pro-Trump group drops election fraud cases

Updated: Nov. 30, 2020 at 1:07 PM EST
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A Wilmington businessman is suing a pro-Trump group, seeking the return of millions of dollars he donated after the group abandoned efforts to find voter fraud in November’s general election.

Fred N. Eshelman, the founder of PPD, donated $2.5 million to Houston-based True the Vote, Inc., for its “Validate the Vote 2020″ plan of filing lawsuits in seven key battleground states and serving subpoenas on state election officials to produce relevant election data, according to a lawsuit filed in Texas federal court on Nov. 25.

The lawsuit claims that the group’s founder and president, Catherine Engelbrecht, met with Eshelman shortly after Election Day and said the plan would cost approximately $7.3 million.

Eshelman, the lawsuit states, “regularly and repeatedly” sought updates from Engelbrecht and other officials from True the Vote about their progress.

“Plantiff’s requests were consistently met with vague responses, platitudes, and empty promises of follow-up that never occurred,” according to the lawsuit.

True the Vote announced on Nov. 17 that it had dismissed lawsuits in Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, citing “barriers to advancing our arguments, coupled with constraints on time, made it necessary for us to pursue a different path.”

The lawsuit claims that after repeated attempts by Eshelman to get his money back, the group responded by offering to return $1 million if Eshelman agreed to not to sue them.

In a statement to the Charlotte Observer, Engelbrecht said the lawsuit is “inaccurate and misrepresents the situation.” She claims the group used Eshelman’s donation to created a whistleblower program, file lawsuits, and provide resources for “groundbreaking data analysis” of voter systems.

Englebrecht added that Eshelman’s consultants wanted the $1 million sent to a private company, and the lawsuit was filed days after True the Vote disputed the invoice.

“When the consultants called us on November 5, it seemed like an answer to prayer,” Englebrecht said in the statement. “Now, it seems like a nightmare.”

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