A former Pennsylvania congressman pleaded guilty on Monday to new charges that he persuaded poll workers to fill ballot boxes in local elections.
Posted on 7.6.2022 by Jeremy Roebuck
A former congressman from Pennsylvania, caught in a frame-up by Abscam in the 1970s, pleads guilty to electoral fraud.
Former U.S. Representative Michael “Ozzie” Myers, who has worked as a campaign consultant since his release from prison, admitted to persuading election officials to inflate votes for favored candidates.
Former Pennsylvania congressman convicted in 1970s Abscam investigation pleaded guilty on Monday to new charges that he persuaded election officials to stuff ballot boxes in local elections.
Former U.S. Representative Michael “Ozzie” Myers who had worked as a campaign consultant since being released from federal prison in the 1980s admitted to a federal judge that he paid a South Philadelphia election agent to fraudulently add votes for candidates who had hired him for their races from 2014 to 2016. He convinced another, he said, to do it for free.
His decision to plead guilty came just hours before he was due to stand trial on charges including bribery, obstruction of justice, tampering with voting records and illegal voting in a federal election.
The 79-year-old former politician now faces up to 20 years in prison on the most serious of those charges and could spend the rest of his life behind bars.
“One thing that can be said of Ozzie Myers: his values have long been out of whack,” said Jacqueline Maguire, head of the FBI’s Philadelphia bureau, which investigated the case. “He valued his clients’ money and his own whims more than the integrity of multiple elections and the will of the voters of Philadelphia. »
Myers and his attorneys did not immediately respond to calls for comment Monday afternoon. But since his indictment in 2020, his case has become a national flashpoint among Republicans, led by former President Donald Trump, who have claimed without evidence that Democrats routinely cheat in elections in places like Philadelphia.
No evidence has surfaced of widespread voter fraud that influenced a recent election. And despite the seriousness of the Myers case, prosecutors have not alleged that the fraudulent votes he bought were enough to tip the scales of a race in the South Philadelphia neighborhood where he was handing out bribes. -wine, not to mention the whole city.
Prosecutors did not identify the candidates backed by Myers’ kickbacks, but noted in recent court documents that most, if not all, had no idea what he was up to. with the money they paid him for his consulting services.
Myers spent three years in prison in the early 1980s for his part in Abscam, a sprawling FBI investigation in which agents posed as representatives of a sheikh offering money in exchange for political favors.
This investigation led to convictions for corruption against seven members of Congress, a senator from New Jersey, three members of the Philadelphia city council and the mayor of Camden.
It ended Myers’ electoral career and led to his expulsion from Congress, where he had represented the 1st congressional district since 1976. His career as a legislator is best known for the sting operation’s most defining sentence. .
“Money talks in this business and the bull walks,” he told agents on a 1979 FBI tape as he accepted a $50,000 bribe.
Since his release from prison in 1985, Myers has transformed himself into one of the go-to political consultants for judicial candidates looking to navigate the twists and turns of neighborhood politics in South Philadelphia.
He has advised clients ranging from local judicial candidates to Pennsylvania Supreme Court Justice Kevin Dougherty, brother of John J. Dougherty, former Chief of Section 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.
In fact, Myers’ work with Section 98 caught the attention of federal agents as part of the investigation that led to the union leader’s conviction in another political corruption case last year. The union has paid Myers more than $400,000 in recent years for his services, records show.
In recent court papers, prosecutors alleged Kevin Dougherty was among the candidates Myers tricked poll workers into supporting with fraudulent votes, though they didn’t say the judge or his brother was aware of this fact.
Agents like Myers have influence with ward leaders and committee members across the city and can often tell the difference between candidates in bottom races, like judicial elections, that appear on ballots. vote of the supported candidates distributed in the polling stations.
Specifically, Myers admitted on Monday to paying thousands of dollars to Domenick DeMuro, the former election judge for the 39th Precinct, 36th Division — a pocket in Philadelphia’s Deep South that stretches from Broad to 12th Street and goes from Oregon Avenue to the Schuylkill Freeway.
He also persuaded Marie Beren, a former aide to City Council member Mark Squilla who was overseeing the poll in the neighboring 39th Precinct (2nd Division), to add votes to those of her favorite candidates, although prosecutors would not did not accuse her of taking his bribes.
The former congressman’s ties to the 39th District run deep. Myers’ brother, Matthew, is the Democratic leader for Precinct 39B. His nephew Jonathan “JR” Rowan holds the same position in Ward 39A, and unsuccessfully ran for State House in 2018.
Prosecutors described the alleged “ballot box stuffing” system as another mechanism by which Myers cemented his control over his family’s political stronghold.
This “allowed him to take credit for the electoral successes of his Philadelphia-based clients and favorite candidates, secure his position in local political parties, which enabled him to control and influence the 39th district, and to influence the distribution of local patronage jobs,” Assistant Attorney Eric L. Gibson wrote in court documents.
DeMuro, who pleaded guilty to election fraud charges in 2020, has cooperated with the FBI since agents confronted him in 2016 and recorded Myers for two election cycles as they discussed what the former member of Congress has described as “vote-cashing”.
In excerpts from those conversations cited in court documents, Myers allegedly instructed DeMuro on how to hide the bribes he was receiving — including providing fictitious names to put on the checks.
“I’m going to give you some checks, there’s no doubt about that,” the former congressman told DeMuro in a conversation quoted in the court documents. “If you want to give me a name other than Domenick DeMuro, that’s your business.”
Myers also reportedly explained that he would not be able to pay the bribes until the deadline for his clients’ final campaign finance report before the primary election expired.
“You don’t want to be on a campaign finance report [d’un candidat] on May 7 while the election is on May 16,” he allegedly said according to the indictment.
In one case described by prosecutors, Myers cut a $1,000 bribe check made out to DeMuro’s wife during the 2017 Democratic primary campaign. He didn’t know DeMuro was working for the feds. at the time.
The money was later listed as payment for efforts to ‘get the vote out’ on campaign finance reports by Viktoria Kristiansson, who was running for the job she now holds as a Plains Court judge municipalities.
That year, Viktoria Kristiansson paid Mr. Myers $5,000 for campaign consulting services.
Prosecutors did not name his name or the names of other Myers clients who benefited from his bribery scheme in court filings and did not suggest any of them committed a crime.
Writer Oona Goodin-Smith contributed to this article.