FORT WORTH (CBS11) – Tarrant County Justice of the Peace, Precinct 3 Russ Casey dropped his re-election bid late Wednesday afternoon hours after the Tarrant County Sheriffs Department launched a criminal investigation into allegations there are nearly three dozen forged signatures included in his campaign petition.

Legal experts say Casey could face charges depending on the outcome of the Sheriff’s Department probe.

Robert Coffee of Hurst says he was surprised when he first saw the signature that was supposed to be his on the petition Casey filed. “It was like wow. It’s so far removed from my signature, it’s just laughable.”

Coffee signed an affidavit saying this wasn’t his signature on Casey’s petition.

He was a Hurst Police Officer for 35 years and says he worked on forgery cases. “I filed a lot of them.”

Tarrant County Republican Party Chairman Tim O’Hare says he received a complaint about the signatures Monday from one of Casey’s challengers, Leonard Lopez.

O’Hare said, “I would understand why any voter or resident of Tarrant County would be concerned.”

It included 33 signed affidavits from voters saying the signatures on Casey’s petition weren’t theirs.

Leonard’s lawyer, Alex Kim, says he has more than 40 affidavits now, and expects that number to climb as high as 60.

O’Hare said, “By and large, the overall majority of them say I did not sign this on this date. That is not my signature.”

Kim issued a statement saying, “Mr. Lopez believes judges should be examples of integrity and honesty. They are the gatekeepers of justice. His commitment to hold Mr. Casey to this standard should serve as an example of Mr. Lopez’s commitment to this court and to Tarrant County.”

Casey wasn’t at his office Wednesday afternoon when CBS11 stopped by.

An employee in Casey’s office said she would have him call, but he never did.

In his withdrawal notice to the Tarrant County Republican Party, Casey said, “It has become apparent that Mr. O’Hare is so biased against me that he will stop at nothing to prevent my re-election. I no longer have confidence that a fair election can actually be held while he remains chairman. I do not feel it is in the best interest of the party for me to remain as a candidate.”

In response, O’Hare said, “I believe Mr. Casey has bigger issues to deal with me than me. At the end of the day, the Tarrant County Republican Party will be better off without him on the ballot.”