Ex-Philly Congressman Ozzie Myers pleads guilty to election fraud charges

Former U.S. Rep. Michael J. ''Ozzie'' Myers.

Former U.S. Rep. Michael J. ''Ozzie'' Myers. (6abc)

A former U.S. congressman and Philadelphia political operative has pleaded guilty to myriad election fraud charges.

U.S. Attorneys say Democrat Michael “Ozzie” Myers, 79, bribed election judges for two South Philadelphia wards from 2014 to 2018 to pump up fake votes for his candidates.

One judge, Domenick J. Demuro, who was charged separately and also pleaded guilty, would certify fraudulent voting machine receipts as valid after adding fake votes for various candidates who had hired Myers for so-called consultancy services.

Demuro accepted payments between $300 and $5,000 to pump up the votes for candidates running for various federal, state, and local elected offices, including judicial positions.

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Myers would drive another judge of elections, Marie Beren, to a South Philly polling place every Election Day, instructing her on which candidates should get how much of a fraudulent pump.

The charges Myers pleaded guilty to include conspiracy to deprive voters of civil rights, bribery, obstruction of justice, falsification of voting records, and conspiring to illegally vote in a federal election.

“Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. If even one vote has been illegally cast or if the integrity of just one election official is compromised, it diminishes faith in process,” said U.S. Attorney Jennifer Arbittier Williams. “Votes are not things to be purchased and democracy is not for sale. If you are a political consultant, election official, or work with the polling places in any way, I urge you to do your job honestly and faithfully. That is what the public deserves and what the federal government will enforce.”

When announcing the initial charges in 2020, U.S. Attorney William McSwain did not say whether the alleged vote tampering changed the outcome of any election. In 2014, McSwain said, Demuro added 27 votes to the total. In 2015, he allegedly added 40, and in 2016, he allegedly added 46.

Since a relatively small number of ballots were cast at Demuro’s polling place overall, those allegedly fraudulent ballots made up 22%, 15%, and 17% of the votes, respectively.

Myers was among the officials convicted in the FBI’s Abscam sting, which ended his four-year career representing Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District in 1980.

Myers was just one of many elected officials investigated and ultimately charged in the sting, but he did provide one of the most famous quotes of the operation when he was offered a bribe by FBI agents posing as representatives of an Arab sheik.

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“Money talks in this business and bullshit walks,” he said. Then, he accepted $50,000.

He was sentenced to three years in prison for accepting a bribe and his colleagues in the U.S. House voted to expel him from the body.

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