Michigan Election Hacking Alleged Amid Charges of Extortion

September 13, 2019 Updated: September 13, 2019

A former campaign staffer for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel being sued for extortion by a third party has claimed that an “underworld network” of Ukrainian computer hackers engaged in mischief during the 2018 election intended to benefit Nessel, according to a federal lawsuit brought by the worker’s former corporate client.

Michigan Republican Party chairman Laura Cox said federal prosecutors should immediately begin a criminal investigation “of these extremely serious allegations of fraud and corruption,” according to The Detroit News.

Nessel’s office says that information technology consultant Dmitriy Movsesyan, the defendant in a lawsuit filed by Executive Car Rental owner Maner Waad, briefly worked for her campaign but denies any wrongdoing.

A spokeswoman for Nessel, Kelly Rossman-McKinney, told The Epoch Times in an interview that the hacking claim is “the most ridiculous assertion I’ve heard.” State Republican demands for an investigation are “political posturing,” she said.

Nessel was elected Nov. 6, 2018, becoming the first Democrat to hold the post in two decades. She beat Republican Tom Leonard 49.04 percent to 46.26 percent. Nessel received 2,031,117 votes compared to Leonard’s 1,916,117, giving her a margin of victory of 115,000, according to official state records. No recounts were apparently requested or performed, and no allegations of widespread fraud surfaced at the time.

It’s unclear from reading the legal complaint filed by Waad in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan on Sept. 4 what specific computer-related shenanigans, if any, took place with respect to the election, and if they violated any laws.

The complaint states that Movsesyan, who performed some kind of work for Waad’s company, “boasted of his underworld network of Ukranian [sic] computer hackers, who Movsesyan claimed manipulated the 2018 Michigan Attorney General Election.”

The same network “was referenced to Plaintiff Waad in other text message communications, along with notations of International payouts. It is believed this same international network ultimately resulted in Movsesyan’s hijacking of Plaintiff Executive’s Google domain names in both the Tampa, Florida, and Detroit, Michigan, International airport locations.”

Movsesyan, who denies any wrongdoing, allegedly referenced his relationship with Nessel while offering to use his supposedly close connection to her to help Executive Car Rental deal with various consumer complaints filed against the company, the lawsuit states.

The attorney general’s office previously accused Executive Car Rental of running afoul of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act and misleading customers. More than 400 complaints were filed against the company, alleging it had improperly withheld or delayed returning damage deposits.

Movsesyan allegedly demanded money for the offered assistance and threatened to contact the media, which the car rental company claims violated the federal Hobbs Act.

Movsesyan sent Waad a selfie photo of him driving Nessel in his car, and claimed to have discussed the consumer complaints with her, calling her “my girl,” the lawsuit states.

Rossman-Kinney told The Epoch Times that Movsesyan was “pretending to be more important and closer to the attorney general candidate than he was.”

She acknowledged Movsesyan did some IT work for the campaign from September to December 2017 and worked for the campaign at the state party’s endorsement convention in April 2018, but his ties to the campaign ended there.

The photo that Movsesyan used was taken on the campaign trail about October 2017, when he drove the then-candidate to an event in Grand Rapids, Rossman-Kinney said.

Movsesyan told The Detroit News “there is no ‘extortion’” and claimed Waad “refuses to pay money owed for work performed.”

“Zero of this is true, especially any involvement of the AG,” Movsesyan said, adding Waad is a “crook” who is attempting to “dance around the complaints his customers filed against him.”

Movsesyan claimed he helped Waad “restructure his company, and he didn’t pay me, once he realized that I will not attempt to influence the AG office in any way. I don’t have that power, nor have I seen Dana Nessel since election night.”

Lawyer Steven Haney, who acts for Waad and Executive Car Rental, told the newspaper the lawsuit has merit.

“The evidence speaks for itself,” Haney said, referencing the various allegedly threatening text messages mentioned in the lawsuit. “They pretty much tell the story. Outright extortion on a level I don’t know if I’ve seen in 20 years as a lawyer.”

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