Two conservative operatives facing criminal charges in Michigan were indicted in Cleveland on Tuesday for organizing tens of thousands of hoax robocalls — made to predominantly Black Midwestern cities — that falsely warned people information gleaned from their mail-in ballots could lead to their arrest or forced vaccinations.
Arrest warrants were issued Tuesday for Jacob Wohl, 22, of Los Angeles, and Jack Burkman, 54, of Arlington, Virginia. They face multiple counts of bribery and voter intimidation after being indicted by a Cuyahoga County grand jury.
Online court records don’t indicate whether the men have attorneys.
They were charged in Detroit on Oct. 1 with conspiring to intimidate voters and using a computer to commit crimes. A judge entered not guilty pleas on their behalf. Their first court appearance in Cleveland is scheduled for Nov. 13.
The men are accused of using a voice broadcast service to make tens of thousands of hoax calls to voters in Ohio, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania and Illinois.
The calls warned people that information from their mailed ballots could be used by law enforcement agencies to enforce arrest warrants, to collect outstanding debts, and to be tracked by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for mandatory vaccines.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael O’Malley said Tuesday’s charges resulted from an investigation by the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
“The right to vote is the most fundamental component of our nation’s democracy,” O’Malley said in a statement. “These individuals clearly infringed upon that right in a blatant attempt to suppress votes and undermine the integrity of this election.”
Wohl and Burkman have a history of staging hoaxes and spreading false smears against Democrats and public officials.
The Associated Press reported in May 2019 that a 21-year-old college student from Michigan said the men recruited him to falsely claim he was raped by Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, then published the smear without his permission.
Wohl denied the student’s accusation, saying the student had reached out to him. Burkman said on Twitter he believed the student’s initial account of the assault was “accurate and true.”
Get daily updates from WHYY News!