Convicted Abscam congressman from South Philly back in federal custody

Michael “Ozzie” Myers admitted to buying votes by paying off election officials to ring up additional support for his favored candidates.

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

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

A former U.S. Congressman who already did one stint in jail is headed back for 30 months after admitting to election fraud.

Michael “Ozzie” Myers has admitted to paying the judge of elections in two polling places to add additional votes to the end-of-day tally between 2014 and 2018. He entered a guilty plea to the charges in June.

Assistant US Attorney Eric Gibson said Myers’ bribes resulted in extra votes being “rung up” on the voting machines by signing in people who didn’t show up to vote. In one case, he had votes added to the tally without any corresponding paperwork.

The fraudulent votes happened in South Philly’s 39th Ward, 36th division.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“What the judge of elections for the 39/36 would do during the scheme was – while the polling place was otherwise not busy –  step into the machine and just add to the vote totals for specific candidates that were favored and supported by Myers,” Gibson said. “On Myers’ instructions, he would just flip the switch, add the vote tallies or extra votes to the candidates on the little machine. So then when the machine spits out the results at the end of the evening, it would have those fraudulent votes recorded within the tally.”

In that case, the fraud was evident because the number of votes counted at the end of the day outnumbered the number of voters who came in to cast a ballot.

At another polling place, Gibson said the scheme was better hidden.

“They voted for individuals who they knew would not appear. But then they signed those individuals’ names into the records, into the paper records,” he said. “So, for example, if Eric Gibson did not appear on Election Day, nonetheless, somebody would sign the sign-in sheet with my name and then somebody would sign the polling book with my name so that the tallies coming out of the machine matched the number of voters.”

This was not a case of voting for those who are no longer among the living.

“Voting for dead people, that had nothing at all to do with this,” Gibson said. “Other family members might come in and say, ‘my husband’s not coming in.’ And they would cast a vote then for the husband, knowing that he was not going to appear at the polls.”

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.

Myers was immediately taken into federal custody, despite pleas from his attorney to give him some time to prepare for incarceration. Gibson admitted the immediate remanding to custody was rare, but the influence Myers had exercised in the city at large “placed him in a category of his own.”

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

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.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

“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.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal