Former Congressman Charged With Bribing Election Official to Stuff Ballot Boxes

Former Congressman Charged With Bribing Election Official to Stuff Ballot Boxes
The Department of Justice in Washington on Sept. 22, 2017. (Samira Bouaou/The Epoch Times)
Janita Kan

A former Philadelphia congressman, who was previously convicted in connection with the FBI's Abscam sting operation, has been charged with bribing an election official to illegally add votes for certain candidates in primary elections, the Justice Department announced.

Michael “Ozzie” Myers, who was working as a campaign consultant, is accused of paying an elections judge to add fraudulent votes on behalf of specific candidates in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 primaries—a process known as "ringing up" votes. The candidates, who, like Myers, are Democrats, were backed by Myers for a variety of reasons, including that the candidates' campaigns had hired Myers to represent them, prosecutors allege.

The indictment (pdf), which was unsealed on July 23, alleges that Myers, 77, would solicit payments from his clients, candidates from elective office, in the form of cash or checks as "consulting fees." Myer would then use a portion of the funds to pay Domenick J. Demuro, a former election judge for the 39th Ward, 36th Division, who previously has pleaded guilty to accepting bribes to cast fraudulent ballots.

Myers would pay Demuro amounts between $300 and $5,000 per election, court documents say.

After receiving the payments, Demuro would add fraudulent votes on voting machines for Myers's clients and preferred candidates—thus diluting the value of the ballots cast by actual voters, prosecutors alleged. Demuro would also falsely certify that the voting machine results were accurate.

In an effort to cover his tracks, Myers would direct Demuro to lie about the scheme and the bribes, prosecutors said.

Myers has been charged on eight counts: one count of conspiracy to deprive individuals of their civil rights; one count of conspiring to illegally vote in a federal election; two counts of violating the Travel Act, which forbids the use of any facility in interstate commerce (here, a cell phone) with the intent to promote certain illegal activity (here, bribery); two counts of falsification of records; one count of voting more than once in a federal election; and one count of obstruction of justice.

"Through the alleged scheme, Myers advanced his political and financial interests through fraudulent and corrupt means by engaging in a 'ballot-stuffing' scheme that enabled him to take credit for the electoral success of his Philadelphia-based clients and preferred candidates," U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania said in a press conference announcing the charges.

"This secured his standing in local party politics that enabled him to control and influence the 39th Ward, and influence the distribution of local patronage jobs."

McSwain said during the press conference that Demuro’s votes added between 27 and 46 votes between 2014 and 2016. Those votes represented 22 percent of the total votes in his division in 2014, 15 percent in 2015, and 17 percent in 2016.

"But at the end of the day, the specific number of votes does not really matter. Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. If only one vote has been illegally rung up or fraudulently stuffed into a ballot box, the integrity of that entire election is undermined," McSwain said.

Myers’s attorney, Arnold R. Silverstein, declined to comment to The Epoch Times on July 23.

Myers, a Democrat, represented Pennsylvania's 1st Congressional District in the House of Representatives between 1976 to 1980, when he was expelled from Congress due to his involvement in the Abscam scandal. Myers was sentenced to three years in prison and fined $20,000 on bribery and conspiracy charges for receiving a payment in return for promising to use official influence on immigration bills.
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