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Right-wing operatives plead guilty to 2020 election robocall scheme

Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman each pleaded guilty to one count of telecommunications fraud.
NOV 1, 2018 : Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl speak to the media about alleged allegations against Robbert Mueller at the Holiday Inn in Rosslyn Va.(Credit Image: © John Middlebrook/CSM via ZUMA Wire) (Cal Sport Media via AP Images)
Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl at the Holiday Inn in Rosslyn, Va., on Nov. 1, 2018.John Middlebrook / CSM/Zuma Wire via via AP file

A pair of right-wing provocateurs pleaded guilty Monday to telecommunications fraud stemming from robocalls made shortly before the 2020 election.

Jacob Wohl, 24, and Jack Burkman, 56, each pleaded guilty to one felony count, a spokesperson from the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed.

Both men were indicted in October 2020 on eight counts of telecommunications fraud and seven counts of bribery in connection with trying to influence voters through robocalls on Aug. 26, 2020, that included disinformation about mail-in voting ahead of the November election.

The remaining charges were dismissed Monday, said Wohl’s attorney, Mark Wieczorek, who declined to comment on his client's guilty plea. NBC News has asked Burkman’s attorney, Brian Joslyn, for comment.

Assistant Prosecuting Attorney James Gutierrez said Burkman and Wohl were "held accountable" for infringing on voters' rights.

“These individuals infringed upon the right to vote, which is one of the most fundamental components of our democracy,” Gutierrez said in a statement. “By pleading guilty, they were held accountable for their un-American actions.”

Prosecutors said more than 8,100 of the robocalls went to phone numbers of residents in Cleveland and East Cleveland.

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, whose office's consumer protection division referred Wohl and Burkman for prosecution, said in a statement Monday that "voter intimidation won’t be tolerated in Ohio.”

Burkman, of Arlington, Virginia, and Wohl, of Irvine, California, have been accused of trying to dissuade 85,000 voters in urban areas across the country, through robocalls that included misinformation about mail-in voting leading up to the 2020 election in Illinois, Michigan, New York and Pennsylvania and other states.

Last year, New York Attorney General Letitia James sought $2.7 million in penalties over robocalls that reached nearly 5,500 New Yorkers and made false claims that personal information of mail-in voters would be given to law enforcement, debt collectors and the government. A settlement was announced this year.

Burkman and Wohl have also been accused of targeting critics or perceived opponents of former President Donald Trump, with debunked allegations of sexual misconduct and other criminal activity. Some of their schemes have focused on then-Democratic presidential candidates Kamala Harris, Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren, as well as former special counsel Robert Mueller.