Two Democratic politicians in an upstate New York city have been charged in a "massive" voter fraud case first reported a year ago on Fox News.
A 59-page, 116-count indictment charges Troy Democratic City Councilman Michael LoPorto and Edward McDonough, Democratic Commissioner of the Rensselaer County Board of Elections, with forgery and criminal possession of a forged instrument. The two men arrive in court in handcuffs on Friday and pleaded not guilty.
Seven other public officials and political operatives are said to be targets of the continuing investigation. The Fox News Voter Fraud unit first reported the brazen allegations just over a year ago, with reports that absentee ballots and applications were forged to try to stuff the ballot box and steal an election.
The case involves absentee ballots from the Working Families Party primary in September of 2009 for the Troy City Council and Rensselaer County legislature. It has been alleged the signatures and absentee exucses of unsuspecting voters were forged, all to ensure the Democratic candidates also won the Working Families Party line. Democratic candidates in New York State often run as Working Families Party hopefuls.
"No one is entitled to more than one vote," said Special Prosecutor Trey Smith, who brought the case. "Anyone who misappropriates the vote of a fellow citizen, takes from all of us. Anyone who attempts to minimize what happened, by saying this has been going on for years, or their vote doesn't matter, trivializes a principle of equality which is historically American, and as our founders believed, a fundamental right of all human beings....not surprisingly, no one has come forward to take full responsibility for the massive fraud perpetrated on the citizens of Rensselaer County."
Smith even collected DNA samples from the majority of the Troy City Council and others, which were compared to samples taken from absentee ballots and applications. Those swabbed include five City Councilmen, among them the Council President, as well as four other public officials and political operatives. Some of them have told Fox News that they did nothing wrong, or had no comment.
Last October, we met Councilman LoPorto, who owns a popular local restaurant, and he told us he had "nothing to say," but then denied any wrongdoing when we questioned him further.
"Did you do anything wrong?" we asked.
He answered, "No."
"Did you try to steal an election?"
"Did you forge any ballots?"
"No," said LoPorto when we interviewed him before the start of the monthly Troy City Council meeting.
LoPorto would not comment as he left court Friday, but his lawyer, Michael Feit said he is not guilty.
“This ends the first part of this case, which having been tried in the media, now we get a chance to defend these charges in a forum where we can be heard, where all the evidence will be presented and the rules of law have to be followed."
"No one tried to steal any election," insisted Troy City Council President Clem Campana in October. He denied any wrongdoing, but also claimed that the case "is Troy politics at its best, it’s been going on forever."
He called the scandal "politically motivated," and blamed former Republican County legislator and Troy official Bob Mirch, who first discovered the allegations and hired investigators to secure the voters' affidavits. Mirch is a pugnacious veteran of Troy's combative political scene, who because he served as the city's public works chief, is known by the colorful sobriquet, "The Garbage Man." He was defeated for re-election in November of 2009, in part because he thinks voters didn't buy his allegations of voter fraud and thought the issue was all baseless mudslinging.
Today, Mirch reacted to the indictments by saying, "I was correct."
"It’s been frustrating waiting this long," he told Fox News, but said "I am grateful it is finally happening, and hopefully the Special Prosecutor will continue on, because there are seven to ten more people who were involved in this voter fraud scheme and they need to be brought to justice."
When the story first broke, voters who told us they had fake votes cast in their names were outraged.
"I can't believe they thought they would get away with this," voter Jessica Boomhower told Fox News. She said a phony absentee ballot was submitted in her name, and that she had no idea that she supposedly voted. Her absentee application claimed she would be attending "a work conference in Boston" on election day, but she said that was not true.
"They decided they would vote for us," she said. "I am sure this goes on a lot in politics and it is very rare when they do get caught."
"I never signed a thing," voter Brian Suozzo told us. His absentee application claimed he was "at home recovering from a medical procedure," which he also said was a lie. "You always hear about this stuff on the news, but to have it happen to me...that someone took my signature and voted with it, I feel extremely violated."
Two of the absentee ballot applications cited "bus to casino," as reasons those voters supposedly couldn't show up at the polls.
Smith called the affected voters, victims, saying "one is deaf and can communicate effectively only in sign language. Those who believed that the victims would never complain about the misappropriation of their voting rights, were wrong. The victims spoke and now the grand jury has spoken with this indictment."
In a statement to New York State Police, McDonough said his understanding was that the absentee ballots "would be picked up and delivered to the voters." He said after the allegations became public, that he became "angry at what the perception was that I was getting from the media as it pertained to the Democratic party."
But at a meeting of political operatives to discuss the scandal, McDonough admitted to police investigators that "I did ask if anyone was recording the meeting," and he "expressed anger that my office had been compromised by someone's operatives," according to the police documents.
Former Troy City Democratic Chairman Frank LaPosta told Fox News that his fellow Democrats ostracized him for speaking out against the allegations, and that the prosecutions show he was right.
"I feel vindicated," he says, "because I was the only one who stood up when this happened and said whoever was involved should leave office, and my fellow Democrats turned against me."
LaPosta also said he feels "sad for the Democratic Party in Troy," and that "it is a shame that elections are not conducted in a fair way, but the people responsible for this fraud should pay the price for what they’ve done."
One political operative who allegedly gathered absentee ballot applications, former Troy Housing worker and Democratic Committeeman Anthony DeFiglio, told the state police 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." He also claimed that the practice "is an ongoing scheme, and it occurs on both sides of the aisle," and that "what appears as a huge conspiracy to non-political persons, is really a normal political tactic that went out of control."
The investigation of at least seven other politicians and political operatives apparently continues.
If you suspect voter problems where you live, e-mail us at: Voterfraud@Foxnews.com An update is will be aired from 10 to 12 noon, E.S.T., on America's News Headquarters, Sunday, January 30th, on the Fox News Channel.