FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Aug. 8, 2012
FORMER LINCOLN COUNTY COMMISSIONER PLEADS GUILTY TO FALSE STATEMENT TO FBI AGENT IN ELECTION FRAUD PROBE
Thomas Ramey, Jr. is the third Lincoln County official to plead guilty in absentee voting investigation
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – A former Lincoln County official pleaded guilty today in federal court to making a false statement in connection with a 2010 election fraud scheme, announced U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin. Former Lincoln County Commissioner Thomas Ramey, Jr., 32, of Lincoln County, W.Va., pleaded guilty to making a false statement to an FBI agent in connection with an absentee voting fraud investigation in Lincoln County.
Ramey admitted that on February 7, 2012, he lied to an investigator to conceal his involvement in an illegal absentee voting conspiracy.
"With Mr. Ramey's guilty plea, we believe we have convicted all the most important participants in the fraudulent absentee ballot scheme in Lincoln County," said Goodwin. "That said, our investigation will continue until we confirm that everyone whose conduct warrants prosecution has been charged."
"Clean elections are critical to our democracy," Goodwin continued. "We hope this yet again sends a clear message that election fraud won't be tolerated in the Southern District of West Virginia."
As stipulated in his plea agreement, Ramey admitted he told the FBI agent he did not know who had altered certain absentee ballot applications after those applications were submitted to the County Clerk’s office. The truth, however, was that Ramey himself had directed another person to alter those applications and was present when the alterations were made. The defendant also admitted he completed many false absentee ballot applications for would-be voters, providing false reasons to claim those voters were eligible to vote absentee.
The plea agreement required Ramey to resign his seat on the Lincoln County Commission and bars him from holding public office or being involved in any campaign for public office for a period of 10 years.
Previously, former Lincoln County Sheriff Jerry Bowman, 58, admitted that during the conspiracy, he falsified more than 100 absentee ballot applications for voters who did not have any legal basis to vote absentee. As stipulated in his plea agreement, Bowman also admitted that on several occasions, he witnessed co-defendant Ramey complete absentee ballot applications for voters who had no apparent reason to vote absentee legally.
Former Lincoln County Clerk Donald C. Whitten, 62, admitted that on December 7, 2011, he lied to an investigator about his role in the election fraud conspiracy.
Bowman previously pleaded guilty in March to conspiracy against rights in connection with the election fraud plot. Co-conspirator Whitten also previously pleaded guilty in March to making a false statement in connection with the fraud scheme.
Bowman faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Whitten faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. Both defendants are scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 29, 2012.
Ramey faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on Nov. 15, 2012, by United States District Judge Thomas E. Johnston.
Like Ramey, Bowman and Whitten have resigned their county offices as required by their plea agreements.
The investigation was conducted by investigator Jim Wise of the West Virginia Secretary of State's Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Counsel to the United States Attorney Steven Ruby and Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Ryan are in charge of the prosecution.
Click here to view a copy of the defendant's plea agreement