PHILADELPHIA – U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain released a video on July 23, 2020, with his remarks concerning the criminal charges against former United States Congressman Michael “Ozzie” Myers. The video is available on the Office website here: https://www.justice.gov/usao-edpa/video/us-attorney-william-m-mcswain-announces-indictment-former-congressman-election-fraud. Below are U.S. Attorney McSwain’s remarks, as prepared for delivery.
Good morning. I am here to announce that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has unsealed criminal charges against Michael “Ozzie” Myers, a political consultant and former United States Congressman in Philadelphia. Myers has been charged with eight counts: one count of conspiracy to deprive individuals of their civil rights; one count of conspiring to illegally vote in a federal election; two counts of violating the Travel Act, which forbids the use of any facility in interstate commerce (here, a cell phone) with the intent to promote certain illegal activity (here, bribery); two counts of falsification of records; one count of voting more than once in a federal election; and one count of obstruction of justice.
This prosecution has been a team effort, and before I get into a more detailed description of the allegations, there are several people that I want to recognize and thank. First, from the FBI, Mike Driscoll, who is the Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Philadelphia Field Office, as well as Special Agent Carmen DiMario, who is the lead investigator on the case. I want to thank the Public Integrity Section at the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, and specifically Section Chief Corey Amundson, Deputy Chief John Keller, and the Director of the Election Crimes Branch of the Section, Richard Pilger. I also want to thank Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Barrett, who is the Chief of our Public Corruption Unit at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Gibson, who is the lead prosecutor on the case. And finally, I would like to thank the Pennsylvania State Police for their assistance in this investigation.
Our election system relies on the honesty and the integrity of those involved in the electoral process. If Election Officials are corrupt, the system is corrupt, which creates opportunities for election fraud and for the counting of fake votes. According to the Indictment, the election system in Philadelphia’s 39th Ward, 36th Division was corrupted by Ozzie Myers and his co-conspirators.
Myers held himself out as an effective and successful political operative capable of ensuring his clients’ electoral success. Myers allegedly did so by working in a number of ways to exert influence and control over Philadelphia’s 39th Ward. According to the Indictment, Myers distributed cash payments and supported family, friends, and allies for elective office in the 39th Ward, and installed Ward Leaders, Judges of Elections, and Democratic State Committee Persons. Through the alleged scheme, Myers advanced his political and financial interests through fraudulent and corrupt means by engaging in a “ballot stuffing” scheme that enabled him to take credit for the electoral success of his Philadelphia-based clients and preferred candidates. This secured his standing in local party politics that enabled him to control and influence the 39th Ward, and influence the distribution of local patronage jobs.
I would like to take you to the 39th Ward, 36th Division to show you where the action happened. I have two photographs that I am going to share at this point to provide some context about the polling place involved. First, there is a picture of the outside of the polling place, which is adjacent to a bocce ball court. Here is that photo. Then, we go inside the polling place, with a picture of the actual machines on an election day.
As charged, Myers would solicit monetary payments from his clients in the form of cash or checks as “consulting fees.” Myers would then take portions of these funds and make payments to Election Board Officials in return for the officials tampering with the election results. Specifically, Myers gave directions and paid money to Dominick J. Demuro, Judge of Elections in Philadelphia’s 39th Ward, who would illegally add votes for certain Democratic candidates on the primary ballots in 2014, 2015, and 2016. These candidates were individuals running for judicial office whose campaigns had hired Myers, as well as other candidates for various federal, state, and local elective offices who were preferred by Myers for a variety of reasons.
After receiving payments from Myers ranging between $300 to $5,000 per election, Demuro would add fraudulent votes – also known as “ringing up” votes – for Myers’ clients and preferred candidates, thereby diluting the ballots cast by actual voters. Myers would relay instructions to Demuro over a cellphone regarding which candidates Demuro should “ring up” on Election Day. Demuro would add the fraudulent votes by literally standing in the voting booth and voting over and over, as fast as he could, when he thought the coast was clear.
Demuro would then falsely certify the Voting Machine results from the 39th Ward, 36th Division as valid. Myers is also charged with obstruction of justice for instructing Demuro about how best to avoid detection concerning these fraudulent votes. Myers allegedly paid Demuro at specific times to avoid campaign financial reporting requirements, and told Demuro to lie about the reason for those payments if he were ever asked.
These fraudulent votes added up. In May 2014, DeMuro stuffed the ballot box with 27 fraudulent ballots during the primary election. In May 2015, DeMuro padded the ballot box with 40 fraudulent votes; in 2016, it was 46 fraudulent votes. These numbers may sound relatively small, but they made up a significant percentage of the total votes cast at the polling place. In 2014, 118 total ballots were reported in the 36th Division of the 39th Ward. That means that the fraudulent votes accounted for over 22% of the total voting in that Division in 2014. In 2015, the fraud accounted for over 15% of the votes in the Division; in 2016, the fraud accounted for over 17% of the votes. And when it comes to these local elections, these numbers are not insignificant. Local elections can often be decided by hundreds, or at times, dozens of votes. These fraudulent votes had the potential to alter a local election’s final result.
But at the end of the day, the specific number of votes does not really matter. Voting is the cornerstone of our democracy. If only one vote has been illegally rung up or fraudulently stuffed into a ballot box, the integrity of that entire election is undermined. As President Lincoln once said, “Elections belong to the people.” The people. To each and every citizen, who has the right to cast one vote. Elections do not and will never belong to corrupt election officials who attempt to buy elections. Votes are not things to be purchased, and democracy is not for sale.
Demuro, who was charged earlier this year by my Office, has accepted responsibility for his crimes by pleading guilty to all charges and is currently awaiting sentencing. And this election fraud investigation is on-going. My Office is taking every possible step that we can to ensure the integrity of every election in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in 2020. We will work day and night to make sure that every citizen’s civil rights are protected, whether that is through access to the polls or making every legitimate vote count. If you tamper with anyone’s right to vote or try to fix the results of any election in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, my Office will hold you accountable. 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, it is what democracy demands, and it is what my Office will enforce. Thank you.