2 indicted in voter intimidation scam that targeted Black communities in Northeast Ohio

The two men devised a robocall scam that reached more than 8,100 numbers in Cleveland and East Cleveland.
Updated: Oct. 27, 2020 at 1:59 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Two men were indicted in Cuyahoga County on charges related to a voter intimidation scam that targeted Black voters in Cleveland and East Cleveland, according to the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s office.

John Burkman, a 54-year-old Virginia man, and Jacob Wohl, a 22-year-old California man, were each indicted on eight counts of telecommunications fraud and seven counts of bribery after using a voice broadcasting service provider to make more than 67,000 calls to people in minority communities across the Midwest, according to a press release.

Prosecutor discusses indictments for voter intimidation scam targeting minority communities in Cuyahoga County

Posted by Cleveland 19 News on Tuesday, October 27, 2020

On Aug. 26, Burkman and Wohl made more than 8,100 calls to three zip codes with large Black communities located in Cleveland and East Cleveland, the prosecutor’s office said.

More than 3,400 of those calls were answered by either a live person or voicemail.

The calls delivered prerecorded messages that falsely warned people that if they voted by mail their information could be used by law enforcement, collection agencies, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to pursue old warrants, collect outstanding debts, and track people for mandatory vaccines.

Click here to listen to a recording of the robocall.

Residents complained to the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section, which investigated and referred the case to Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Michael C. O’Malley.

“We urge all citizens to get out and vote," O’Malley said. "Do not let these individuals or others like them succeed. Exercise your right and get out and VOTE!”

On Tuesday, during the governor’s biweekly COVID-19 conference Ohio Secretary of State Frank LaRose thanked those who called in the complaints and said that Ohio isn’t going to stand for voter intimidation.

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