2 conservatives accused in hoax robocall scheme plead guilty

CLEVELAND (AP) — Two right-wing cops pleaded guilty in Cleveland to several telecommunications fraud felonies Monday for placing thousands of false robocalls in Ohio telling people they could be arrested or forced to get vaccinations based on information they submitted to votes by mail.

Jacob Wohl, 24, of Irvine, Calif., and Jack Burkman, 56, of Arlington, Virginia, could each face up to one year in prison if convicted on Nov. 29 in a joint plea court. They were charged in October 2020 with numerous telecommunications fraud and bribery.

Wohl’s attorney, Mark Wieczorek, declined to comment on his client’s plea. Burkman’s attorney, Brian Joslyn, did not immediately respond to a telephone message requesting comment.

The two men were charged with arranging a voice broadcast to make about 85,000 robocalls to predominantly black neighborhoods in Ohio, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois during the run-up to the 2020 general election. Prosecutors said the pair was responsible for 3,500 calls to Cleveland and East Cleveland residents.

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley at the time the couple was charged said they were “clearly infringing that right in a blatant attempt to suppress votes and undermine the integrity of this election.”

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, whose consumer protection unit assisted in the investigation, issued a statement Monday saying that “intimidation of voters in Ohio will not be tolerated.”

The calls warned people that information in their ballots sent could be used by law enforcement agencies to enforce arrest warrants, collect outstanding debts and lead to tracing by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for mandatory vaccines.

Wohl and Burkman have a history of setting up hoaxes and spreading false defamation against Democrats and officials.

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The Associated Press reported in May 2019 that a 21-year-old Michigan student said the men recruited him to falsely claim he had been raped by then-Democrat presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, and published the Pap smear without the student’s consent.

Wohl denied the accusation, saying the student contacted him. Burkman said on Twitter that he believed the student’s initial report on the alleged attack was “accurate and true.”

The men have been sued in federal court in New York City and face fined $5.1 million by the Federal Communications Commission. Wohl and Burkman are attractive criminal charges filed against them

in Detroit as a result of a similar fake robocall scheme targeting black voters.

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