Oct 24, 2022 - Politics & Policy

2 right-wing activists plead guilty in 2020 election robocall scheme

 Jack Burkman, the lobbyist who has put a sizable donation to solve the murder of Seth Rich, canvasses the neighborhood of the murder on January, 10, 2017 in Washington, DC.

Lobbyist Jack Burkma in Washington, D.C., in 2017. Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images

Two right-wing activists each pleaded guilty in a Cleveland court Monday to single felony counts of telecommunications fraud over false robocalls in Ohio ahead of the 2020 election, prosecutors announced.

Driving the news: Jacob Wohl, 24, and Jack Burkman, 56, were indicted in October 2020 in connection with a scheme that Cuyahoga County prosecutors said targeted thousands of minority voters with pre-recorded messages that falsely claimed they could face mandatory vaccines or be tracked by law enforcement if they voted by mail.

What they're saying: Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in a statement after the pair pleaded guilty that voter intimidation would "not be tolerated" in the state.

  • He said his Robocall Enforcement Unit, along with Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Investigation, assisted in the investigation and was able to partner with Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael "to shut down these two people who were trying to commit voter intimidation."

The big picture: Wohl, of Irvine, California, and Burkman, of Arlington, Virginia, gained national attention for several stunts in recent years seeking to smear public officials and Democrats.

  • The Federal Communications Commission announced last year plans to fine the pair $5 million and they're being sued in federal court in New York City after being accused of making threatening robocalls that N.Y. Attorney General Letitia James said were designed to suppress Black voters.

Meanwhile, Wohl and Burkman are "appealing criminal charges filed against them in Detroit stemming from a similar bogus robocall scheme targeting Black voters," AP notes.

  • Representatives for Wohl and Burkman could not immediately be reached for comment.
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