Conservative operatives Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman were charged on Thursday for allegedly orchestrating a series of robocalls aimed at suppressing the vote in the November presidential election, Michigan authorities said.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel filed a slew of charges against Burkman, 54, and Wohl, 22, including conspiracy to commit an election law violation and using a computer to commit the crime of election law - intimidating voters. Prosecutors allege the two political operatives were using a robocall system aimed at scaring Detroit voters away from using mail-in voting ballots. The calls, which were made in August, went out to nearly 12,000 Detroit residents.
Both Wohl and Burkman face four felony counts and a maximum sentence of 7 years in prison.
The voice on the call attributed to Wohl and Burkman attempts to trick listeners into not sending in mail-in ballots, falsely warning that the information would be used to track fugitives, collect on credit card debts, and enforce “mandatory vaccines.” The calls also told residents to “beware of vote by mail.”
“Don’t be BS’ed into giving your private information to the man,” the call continued. “Stay safe and beware of vote-by-mail.”
Wohl and Burkman didn’t respond to immediate requests for comment. In August, Burkman denied being behind the robocall, claiming it was suspicious that it was connected to his personal cell phone number.
“No one in their right mind would put their own cell on a robocall,” Burkman told The Daily Beast.
“Any effort to interfere with, intimidate or intentionally mislead Michigan voters will be met with swift and severe consequences,” Nessel said. “This effort specifically targeted minority voters in an attempt to deter them from voting in the November election. We’re all well aware of the frustrations caused by the millions of nuisance robocalls flooding our cell phones and landlines each day, but this particular message poses grave consequences for our democracy and the principles upon which it was built. Michigan voters are entitled to a full, free and fair election in November and my office will not hesitate to pursue those who jeopardize that.”
The attorney general's office added that during the investigation into the robocalls, investigators communicated with officials in New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Illinois—all of whom reported similar robocalls being made to residents in their states. All the calls, they said, were made to residents in “urban areas with significant minority populations,” the Michigan attorney general's office said.
“It's believed around 85,000 calls were made nationally, though an exact breakdown of the numbers of calls to each city or state are not available,” the AG's office said. Nessel also encouraged anyone who received such a robocall to file a complaint with her office.
The Michigan charges aren’t the only legal charges facing the pair. Wohl has been charged with two felonies over alleged violations of California securities law. On Saturday, The Daily Beast reported on a secret FBI investigation into Wohl and Burkman over the leak of confidential juror questionnaires and grand jury testimony in the trial of Trump associate Roger Stone.
Wohl and Burkman became notorious online in 2018, after a failed attempt to manufacture a sexual assault allegation against Robert Mueller collapsed in spectacular fashion. Since then, they have tried to create hoaxes against other Trump opponents, but the schemes always fail almost immediately, often due to Wohl and Burkman’s own errors.
The duo have not yet been arrested, according to a press release from the Michigan attorney general. But the release noted that the agency will work with “local enforcement” if the two don’t turn themselves in.