A total of four Democratic officials and political operatives have now pleaded guilty to voter fraud-related felony charges in an alleged scheme to steal a New York election.
The latest guilty pleas expose the ease with which political insiders can apparently manipulate the electoral system and throw an election their way, by the forging of signatures of unsuspecting voters that are then cast as real votes.
"The phrase they use is: 'making sure they vote the right way,'" said a source close to the case, which is unfolding in Troy, N.Y. "It is not a Democratic or Republican thing. ... It is criminal."
Former Troy Democratic City Clerk William McInerney, Democratic Councilman John Brown, and Democratic political operatives Anthony Renna and Anthony DeFiglio have entered guilty pleas in the case, in which numerous signatures were allegedly forged on absentee ballots in the 2009 Working Families Party primary, the political party that was associated with the now-defunct community group, ACORN.
The four have pleaded guilty to one count of various charges, ranging from forgery to falsifying business records, and criminal possession of a forged instrument.
"Getting at the truth has always been the primary goal of this investigation," Special Prosecutor Trey Smith said in a statement, while also thanking New York State Police efforts to "bring those responsible for the voting fraud to justice."
Numerous voters told Fox News that they were stunned that their signatures were faked on absentee ballot applications and ballots, which were cast as real votes in their names in the 2009 primary election.
Brian Suozzo's absentee ballot application claimed that he was "at home recovering from medical procedure," which he told us was not true.
"Someone took my signature and voted with it and I feel extremely violated," Suozzo said when Fox News first broke the story nationally in 2009. "The whole thing seems dirty to me."
Jessica Boomhower's absentee ballot application falsely claimed that she was in Boston.
"I can't believe they thought they would get away with this," she told Fox News. "I didn't get to cast my vote on my own. ... They're corrupt. I am sure this goes on a lot in politics, but it's very rare that they do get caught."
Two of the ballot applications claimed that the voters were unavailable, because they were supposedly on a "bus trip to casino."
Smith, at one point during the two-year long investigation, even obtained court orders to take DNA samples from five of the seven Democratic members of the Troy City Council. The goal was to try and compare the samples to any DNA evidence found on the absentee ballot envelopes.
No Republicans were implicated in the alleged conspiracy, but one political operative claimed that such voter fraud occurs "on both sides of the aisle."
In November 2009, Democratic operative Anthony DeFiglio told New York State police investigators that faking absentee ballots was a commonplace and accepted practice in political circles, all intended to swing an election.
"This is an on-going scheme and it occurs on both sides of the aisle," he told police. "The people who are targeted live in low-income housing and there is a sense that they are a lot less likely to ask any questions."
He said that "it was common knowledge that these people were never going to receive an absentee ballot. This is a political strategy to get control of a third party line."
DeFiglio claimed that "the reason that this came to light in this election, was the sheer number of absentee ballots that went out to the Working Families Party. ... To political insiders in the county, what appears as a huge conspiracy to non-political persons is really a normal political tactic."
Troy City Council President Clem Campana pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to charges including falsifying business records and illegal voting.
When Fox News asked him about the case last year, Campana was adamant that he did nothing wrong.
"No one tried to steal any election," he claimed. "I did nothing wrong, I don't know if anyone did, and if they did, they should be held accountable for it."
City Councilman Michael LoPorto and Democratic County Elections Commissioner Edward McDonough were indicted earlier this year and they face trial on the felony charges next month.
LoPorto also denied the allegations when Fox News questioned him last year.
"Did you do anything wrong?" Fox News asked.
He answered, "No."
"Did you try to steal an election?"
"Did you forge any ballots?"
"No," said LoPorto.
"They did steal an election," claimed Bob Mirch, the pugnacious former Republican Majority Leader of the Rensselaer County legislature, who first discovered the alleged fraud and started the investigation. For his efforts in trying to expose what happened, Mirch says he was voted out of office after serving 16 years and was replaced by a Democrat.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," he said about voter fraud. "This case in Troy shows that the political insiders had this scheme down pat. Two years ago the public didn't believe me, but they know it now."
The case in Troy echoes a similar election fraud investigation that is now ongoing in Indiana.
St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak, in South Bend, is currently investigating allegations that numerous signatures on 2008 Democratic Presidential primary petitions for then candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, were faked. There are claims that so many signatures were fraudulent, that the Obama campaign may not have actually obtained enough legitimate signatures to have legally qualified for the ballot. And just like the New York voters in Troy who told Fox News that they never signed absentee ballots, voters in South Bend and Mishawaka told us that their signatures were forged too.
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Eric Shawn is a New York-based anchor and senior correspondent for FOX News Channel (FNC). He anchors "America's News Headquarters" on Sundays from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. ET. and “Sunday Morning Futures with Maria Bartiromo.” He anchors frequently during the week on the Fox News Channel and reports on politics, terrorism, and foreign affairs. Shawn has provided live coverage from both the Democratic and Republican National Conventions since 1992. In 2004 he led the Fox News investigative team that uncovered new evidence in the murder of Jimmy Hoffa, based on the claims of hit-man Frank Sheeran. Click here for more information on Eric Shawn.