On the job

MATT SOPER

The family renting a Delta home where Republican Matt Soper has been claiming to live for more than a year is being threatened with eviction so the GOP candidate for House District 54 can move into it with his girlfriend.

Omar Carreon said Tuesday he, his disabled parents and brother have been told they have until the end of next month to leave 10 Hartig Drive, a home owned by Soper's mother, Betty Ann Soper.

Carreon came forward last week to say Matt Soper isn't telling the truth when he claims he has been living in the home since last year. In order to meet the state's residency requirements to qualify for the Colorado Legislature, candidates need to have physically lived in the district in which they are running for at least 12 months.

"We have until the end of November ... so that Matt and Sarah can move in," Carreon said. "It's all of us that have to leave, not just me and my brother."

But Carreon's Grand Junction attorney, David Mueller, said Tuesday Betty Ann Soper's eviction attempt is illegal, noting the letter was a "notice to quit," not an eviction notice.

The names of the other three members of Carreon's family are being withheld at his request because they all have one form of disability or another. Carreon said he is concerned for their safety and worried the Soper family may have unwittingly involved them in voter fraud. Mueller, who often advocates for the rights of the disabled, has taken the case pro bono.

"I have decided that it is in my best interests to no longer rent out the house and the adjacent outbuildings so that my son, Matt Soper, can now take over the entire property," Betty Ann Soper wrote in an Oct. 20 letter to the Carreon family.

The mother also wrote that she is, by law, required to give the family 21 days to vacate, but is giving them more time, an assertion Mueller disputed in a response letter to Betty Ann Soper sent on Tuesday.

"I can tell you that based on my interpretation of (the law), you are required to give the Carreons no less than 91 days notice," Mueller wrote. "Thus, be advised that your unlawful attempt to evict the Carreons and their children is egregious, unwarranted and contrary to the terms of the tenancy agreement. Please cease and desist any efforts to evict my clients."

Carreon and Mueller said Betty Ann Soper also advised the family to not share her eviction letter with the media, saying it would be a "copyright infringement." Mueller claims that was a clear attempt at intimidation.

Matt Soper did not respond to questions for this story on Tuesday. He previously has said he has a room in the home, alleging Carreon's claims are politically motivated.

Since April, Soper said he has been living with his girlfriend, Sarah I-Chu Wang, a Washington, D.C., patent attorney, at a nearby home that is in the House district.

Prior to claiming he moved into the Hartig Drive home, Soper was living at his parents' home in Austin, which is not in House District 54.

According to Soper's voting record, prior to November 2017 he was living in his parents' home in House District 61, which stretches from eastern Delta County to the Summit Valley. House District 54 includes most of Mesa County outside of Grand Junction and the western half of Delta County, including much of the city of Delta. In that district, Soper is facing independent candidate Thea Chase, a Palisade town trustee.

Soper's voting record provided by the Colorado Secretary of State's Office shows he declared the Hartig home, which his family has owned for decades, as his primary residence before the November 2017 general election. Under Colorado Revised Statute 1-2-102, that residence must be a person's "primary home or place of abode."

Prior to changing that residence on his voter registration — Soper also changed his residence to the Hartig Drive home for his driver's license and tax returns — he was living with his parents at 8841 Marshalls Road in Austin. That's the same home he lived in when he served as an Orchard City trustee from April 2012 to September 2012, when he resigned to attend law school in New Hampshire.

In a letter to the editor of the Summit Daily News in 2012, Soper said he explored running for the Colorado House in House District 61 when he still lived in Austin, but said he deferred to the eventual GOP candidate in that race, Debra Irvine.

Irvine went on to lose to Rep. Millie Hamner, D-Frisco, who is term-limited and cannot run for the seat again.

Currently, the 34-year-old Soper does not own real estate or a vehicle, but does own a research and marketing business called Oxford Strategic Consulting. 

When that business was first formed in 2007, it was located at his parents' Marshalls Road address, according to state business filings. A year later, Soper added the Hartig Drive home as the business' principal office, but kept the Marshalls Road home as its mailing address.

Carreon said since his parents started renting the home in August 2016, Soper has not lived or worked there.

The Secretary of State's Office said if Soper is elected to the seat on Nov. 6, his legal residency can be challenged within 10 days after the office officially certifies the election, which usually doesn't occur until early December.

A complaint has already been filed challenging Soper's residency with the 7th Judicial District Attorney's Office, which covers Delta County, and the Denver District Attorney's Office, which has jurisdiction over such statewide matters. The complaint with the local prosecutor is over whether Soper committed voter fraud, while the complaint in Denver is over whether he filed fraudulent documents claiming residency to run for legislative office.

Soper's voting record shows he has voted from the Hartig Drive address in four elections since November 2017, including up to three when he told The Daily Sentinel last week he was living with Wang at 1776 Clearview Drive since April.

He has not responded to follow-up questions since last week. His mail-in ballot for next month's election was delivered to the Hartig address, but it is unknown if he has cast that ballot.

Colorado law bars voters from voting from an address at which they don't actually live.

Dave Edwards, a former Palisade trustee who filed those complaints, said he spoke to investigators with the Denver District Attorney's Office on Monday, and that they are investigating the matter.

"I don't see how anyone can think that it's OK to move into a district after having been elected to office," Edwards said. "Up until November 2017, Matt was living with his mom in Austin in a different legislative district. Since we know he was lying about where he lived for purposes of voting from November 2017 until November 2018, it is reasonable to assume that he continued to live with his mom. Changing addresses after the election is no cure for the crime."

By law, if Soper doesn't actually live at that address but voted from it, he could be guilty of committing voter fraud, a felony that is punishable by up to 18 months imprisonment, one year of parole and a fine of up to $100,000.

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