Congressman George Santos Charged with Fraud, Money Laundering, Theft of Public Funds, and False Statements
Douglass Mackey, also known as “Ricky Vaughn,” was convicted today by a federal jury in Brooklyn of the charge of Conspiracy Against Rights stemming from his scheme to deprive individuals of their constitutional right to vote. The verdict followed a one-week trial before United States District Judge Ann M. Donnelly. When sentenced, Mackey faces a maximum of 10 years in prison.
Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, and Michael J. Driscoll, Assistant Director-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, New York Field Office (FBI), announced the verdict.
“Mackey has been found guilty by a jury of his peers of attempting to deprive individuals from exercising their sacred right to vote for the candidate of their choice in the 2016 Presidential Election,” stated United States Attorney Peace. “Today’s verdict proves that the defendant’s fraudulent actions crossed a line into criminality and flatly rejects his cynical attempt to use the constitutional right of free speech as a shield for his scheme to subvert the ballot box and suppress the vote.”
In 2016, Mackey established an audience on Twitter with approximately 58,000 followers. A February 2016 analysis by the MIT Media Lab ranked Mackey as the 107th most important influencer of the then-upcoming Presidential Election.
As proven at trial, between September 2016 and November 2016, Mackey conspired with other influential Twitter users and with members of private online groups to use social media platforms, including Twitter, to disseminate fraudulent messages that encouraged supporters of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to “vote” via text message or social media which, in reality, was legally invalid. For example, on November 1, 2016, in or around the same time that Mackey was sending tweets suggesting the importance of limiting “black turnout,” the defendant tweeted an image depicting an African American woman standing in front of an “African Americans for Hillary” sign. The ad stated: “Avoid the Line. Vote from Home,” “Text ‘Hillary’ to 59925,” and “Vote for Hillary and be a part of history.” The fine print at the bottom of the deceptive image stated: “Must be 18 or older to vote. One vote per person. Must be a legal citizen of the United States. Voting by text not available in Guam, Puerto Rico, Alaska or Hawaii. Paid for by Hillary For President 2016.” The tweet included the typed hashtag “#ImWithHer,” a slogan frequently used by Hillary Clinton. On or about and before Election Day 2016, at least 4,900 unique telephone numbers texted “Hillary” or some derivative to the 59925 text number, which had been used in multiple deceptive campaign images tweeted by Mackey and his co-conspirators.
Several hours after tweeting the first image, Mackey tweeted an image depicting a woman seated at a conference room typing a message on her cell phone. This deceptive image was written in Spanish and mimicked a font used by the Clinton campaign in authentic ads. The image also included a copy of the Clinton campaign’s logo and the “ImWithHer” hashtag.
The government’s case is being handled by the Office’s Public Integrity Section. Assistant United States Attorneys Erik D. Paulsen and F. Turner Buford of the Office’s Public Integrity Section, and Trial Attorney William J. Gullotta of the Department of Justice’s Public Integrity Section are in charge of the prosecution, with the assistance of Paralegal Specialist Shivani Parshad.
West Palm Beach, Florida
E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 21-CR-80 (AMD)
Danielle Blustein Hass
United States Attorney’s Office