UPDATE: West Virginia mail carrier admits attempted election fraud

ELKINS, WV (WOAY) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell and Secretary of State Mac Warner announced that a mail carrier has admitted to federal charges in the alleged manipulation of absentee voter requests.

Thomas Cooper, 47, of Dry Fork, pleaded guilty Thursday to single counts of injury to the mail and attempt to defraud the residents of West Virginia of a fair election. Cooper will be sentenced at a later date.

An investigator for the Attorney General gathered evidence for the case on behalf of the Secretary of State’s Office.

“News of the guilty plea underscores the strength of our case,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Our team remains committed to protecting the integrity of elections in West Virginia. Our citizens deserve nothing less.”

“In West Virginia every vote counts and those that attempt to disrupt our democratic processes will be held accountable for their actions,” said Secretary of State Warner. “I am greatly pleased with outcome of the Election Fraud Task Force’s effort to investigate and proceed with prosecution expeditiously to obtain a guilty plea of absentee balloting fraud.”

An affidavit filed in late May states Cooper fraudulently altered eight absentee ballot requests in Pendleton County, of which the complaint states he fraudulently changed the party affiliation on five from Democrat to Republican.

The affidavit, which accompanied the criminal complaint, states Cooper accessed the ballot requests through his employment as a rural mail carrier. He was responsible for mail delivery in the three towns from which the tampered requests were mailed – Onego, Riverton and Franklin.

According to the affidavit, Cooper admitted to altering some of the requests.

The alterations were caught by an elections official in the Pendleton County Courthouse and reported to the state’s Election Fraud Task Force.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Warner (no relation to the Secretary of State) is prosecuting the case. The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office, West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office and the U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General investigated.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael Aloi presided.

Read a copy of the criminal complaint at https://bit.ly/2X0GIiO and affidavit at https://bit.ly/2X3P7Cc.


ELKINS, WV (WOAY) — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell and Secretary of State Mac Warner announced a criminal charge against a rural mail carrier Tuesday in connection with the alleged manipulation of absentee voter requests – evidence gathered by an investigator for the Attorney General on behalf of the Secretary of State’s Office.

Thomas Cooper, 47, of Dry Fork, stands charged with attempting to defraud the residents of West Virginia of a fair election. An affidavit accompanying the criminal complaint states Cooper fraudulently altered eight absentee ballot requests in Pendleton County, of which the complaint states he fraudulently changed the party affiliation on five from Democrat to Republican.

“Manipulating one’s absentee ballot or application is not a laughing matter – it’s a federal offense,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “We must protect the integrity of the ballot box, and this demonstrates the aggressive action we will take to do so. It is more important now than ever for voters to watch for unexplained or suspicious marks and/or any other irregularity with their ballot. If something looks suspicious, let us know right away.”

The affidavit states Cooper accessed the ballot requests through his employment as a rural mail carrier. He was responsible for mail delivery in the three towns from which the tampered requests were mailed – Onego, Riverton and Franklin.

According to the affidavit, Cooper admitted to altering some of the requests.

The alterations were caught by an elections official in the Pendleton County Courthouse, and reported to the state’s Election Fraud Task Force.

Secretary of State Warner noted the alertness and quick reaction by Pendleton County election officials, and said, “We want everyone to be tuned into the increased opportunities for fraud. Voting absentee makes it easy to vote, but increases opportunities for irregularities and fraud to occur. If you see something, say something.”

A criminal complaint is merely an accusation. A defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Warner (no relation to the Secretary of State) is prosecuting the case. The West Virginia Attorney General’s Office, West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office and the U.S. Postal Service Office of the Inspector General investigated.

Read a copy of the criminal complaint at https://bit.ly/2X0GIiO and affidavit at https://bit.ly/2X3P7Cc.

This week’s filing amplifies concerns related to the ability of fraudsters to steal or manipulate absentee ballots now that more people will use a mail-in, absentee ballot due to social distancing concerns driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Attorney General and Secretary of State alerted voters in April to potential warning signs of absentee voter fraud, including the theft of absentee ballots from one’s mailbox, the submission of absentee ballot applications in the name of a recently deceased person and the submitting of more than two ballots during an election cycle – also known as ballot harvesting.

The leaders also recommended that no one should accept assistance in marking their ballot unless they know and completely trust the person to ward off any fraudster looking to substitute his or her choice over that of the legitimate voter. Even then, the helper should mark the ballot in front of the voter and sign the affidavit on the absentee ballot envelope.

Anyone who suspects potential voter fraud should contact the Secretary of State’s Election Fraud Hotline toll free at 1-877-FRAUD-WV.

Those with reports of price gouging, scams and consumer fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic should immediately contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-368-8808, the Eastern Panhandle Consumer Protection Office in Martinsburg at 304-267-0239 or visit the office online at www.wvago.gov.

Tyler Barker
Tyler Barker is currently the News Director and Digital Content Manager for WOAY-TV. He was promoted to this job in Mid-November. He still will fill in on weather from time to time. You can follow Tyler on Facebook and Twitter @wxtylerb. Have any news tips or weather questions? Email him at tbarker@woay.com