Republican strategists fined $1M for illegal robocalls aimed at African American voters.

People who voted by mail were targeted with intimidating calls alleging that they would be monitored for any warrants, debt, and forced vaccinations.

April 11th 2024.

Republican strategists fined $1M for illegal robocalls aimed at African American voters.
In 2020, two conservative operatives, Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman, were found to have used fake robocalls in an attempt to discourage Black voters in New York from voting by mail in the presidential election. As a result, they were ordered to pay up to $1.25 million in restitution and found liable for violating both federal and state civil rights laws by U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero.

On April 9, 2021, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that Wohl and Burkman had agreed to a $1 million judgment with the Office of the Attorney General, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and individual plaintiffs after a lawsuit was filed against them in May of that year. However, if they fail to pay at least $105,000 by December 31st and do not address this within 30 days, the amount will increase to $1.25 million.

Wohl and Burkman, who is a lawyer that had his law license revoked in March 2024 by the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, used a fake organization called Project 1599 to target over 5,000 New Yorkers during the election cycle. The victims received threatening calls stating that if they voted by mail, their personal information would be made public and used by police departments to track down warrants, credit card companies to collect debts, and even the CDC to track for mandatory vaccines.

One particular call from someone claiming to be "Tamika Taylor" warned voters of the dangers of voting by mail, stating that their private information would be shared and they should beware of this method of voting. These tactics caused severe anxiety and distress for at least one voter, who ultimately withdrew their voter registration.

This robocall scheme also reached other major cities such as Cleveland, Minneapolis, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Detroit, and Arlington, Virginia. Attorney General James released a statement condemning these actions and promising to protect the right to vote for all individuals. "The right to vote is the cornerstone of our democracy and belongs to everyone. We will not allow anyone to threaten that right," she declared.

In the end, Wohl and Burkman were ordered to pay up to $1.25 million to the Office of the Attorney General, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation, and the individuals who were harmed by their scheme. David Schwartz, the attorney for the defendants, shared that his clients were pleased with the settlement and were eager to move on from this incident.

It is worth noting that in October 2022, Wohl and Burkman pleaded guilty to telecommunications fraud in Ohio for using robocalls in a similar manner to the ones used in New York. They were sentenced to two years of probation, fined $2,500, and required to perform 500 hours of community service. Additionally, in June 2023, the Federal Communications Commission fined them $5.1 million for making over 1,000 unlawful robocalls.

Despite the settlement and consequences, the defendants' actions have caused harm and fear for many individuals, particularly in the Black community. Attorney General James reiterated the importance of protecting the right to vote and promised to continue defending it. "Wohl and Burkman orchestrated a depraved and disinformation-ridden campaign to intimidate Black voters in an attempt to sway the election in favor of their preferred candidate. We will always stand up for the right to vote," she affirmed.

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