The Biden Justice Department on Tuesday announced charges against a pro-Trump Twitter user accused of trying to manipulate voters ahead of the 2016 presidential election.
Douglass Mackey, who was known online as “Ricky Vaughn,” was arrested in West Palm Beach on Tuesday on a charge that he conspired to oppress the rights of voters in the election by publishing false information about voting.
Prosecutors allege that between September 2016 and the election on Nov. 8, 2016, Mackey “conspired with others to use social media platforms, including Twitter, to disseminate fraudulent messages” that encouraged supporters of Hillary Clinton to vote via social media.
Prosecutors cited a Nov. 1, 2016 tweet from Mackey in which he allegedly published an image of an African American woman encouraging them to vote on social media on election day.
“Avoid the Line. Vote from Home. Text ‘[Candidate’s first name]’ to 59925[.] Vote for [the Candidate] and be a part of history,” the message said, according to the complaint.
According to prosecutors, Mackey used four separate Twitter accounts to post disinformation on the social media site. Mackey’s main account, @Ricky_Vaughn99, was suspended by Twitter on Oct. 5, 2016. Twitter suspended another account Mackey used on Nov. 14, 2016.
It is unclear why prosecutors waited more than four years to file charges against Mackey, who was outed in April 2018 by former congressional candidate Paul Nehlen as the person behind the Vaughn account.
Nehlen, who gained notoriety for posting racist and anti-semitic messages on social media, revealed Mackey’s identity on Gab, a social media site popular with the far right. (RELATED: Paul Ryan Slaughters Paul Nehlen In Wisconsin Primary)
An FBI affidavit signed by special agent Megan Rees says that a former congressional candidate confirmed to agents in an interview in October 2020 that Mackey was behind the Ricky Vaughn persona.
Nehlen ran for Congress in Wisconsin in 2016 and 2018.
William Sweeney, who leads the FBI’s field office in New York, asserted in a statement that Mackey’s alleged actions “amounted to nothing short of vote theft.”
“It is illegal behavior and contributes to the erosion of the public’s trust in our electoral processes. He may have been a powerful social media influencer at the time, but a quick Internet search of his name today will reveal an entirely different story,” Sweeney said.
Mackey, 31, could not be reached for comment. Prosecutors said he is scheduled to appear in court later Tuesday.
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