Sunday, October 25, 2020

Former South Philly judge of elections admits to bribery to inflate votes

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A former judge of elections and Democratic committeeperson from South Philadelphia pleaded guilty to accepting $2,500 in bribes to inflate the vote totals for three Democratic candidates for Common Pleas Court judge between 2014 and 2016, U.S. Attorney William M. McSwain announced Thursday.

Domenick J. DeMuro, 73, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deprive Philadelphia voters of their civil rights by fraudulently stuffing the ballot boxes for the candidates in the 2014, 2015, and 2016 primary elections, and violating the Travel Act, which forbids the use of a cell phone to promote illegal activity — bribery, McSwain’s office said.

“Our election system relies on the honesty and the integrity of its election officials. If they are corrupt, the system is corrupt, which creates opportunities for election fraud and for the counting of fake votes,” McSwain said in a video-recorded statement sent to news outlets.

“DeMuro fraudulently stuffed the ballot box by literally standing in a voting booth and voting over and over, as fast as he could, while he thought the coast was clear. This is utterly reprehensible conduct. The charges announced today do not erase what he did, but they do ensure that he is held to account for those actions,” McSwain added.

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He did not name the candidates and did not say if they won their elections.

DeMuro admitted that a political consultant — whose name prosecutors did not reveal — paid him to add votes for Democratic candidates running for the bench, prosecutors said.

The consultant took fees from the candidates and used part of the money to pay DeMuro, a judge of elections in the 36th Division of the 39th Ward, and Election Board officials, they said.

In May 2014, DeMuro inflated vote totals by adding 27 fraudulent ballots in the primary election, 40 votes in May 2015, and 46 in 2016, according to court documents outlining the scheme and the charges against him.

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While those numbers may seem small, prosecutors said, they made up a significant percentage of the total votes cast at the polling place. In 2014, 118 total ballots were reported there, which means that DeMuro’s fraudulent votes accounted for over 22% of the total voting in that division in 2014. In 2015, his fraud accounted for over 15% of the votes in the division; in 2016, his fraud accounted for over 17% of the votes.

DeMuro faces up to 15 years in federal prison when sentenced.

His lawyer, Janine Vinci, declined to comment Thursday.

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