New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced that her office had reached an agreement to issue a fine of $1 million against two conservative activists who used robocalls to contact thousands of Black New Yorkers in an attempt to intimidate them from voting.

James’ office issued a statement detailing the agreement to fine Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman “up to $1.25 million” for spreading voter misinformation and intimidating Black potential voters before the 2020 election. A federal judge found the two, who operated under Project 1599, had sent a robocall to about 5,500 people in New York to discourage mail-in voting, which was being promoted amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a transcript of the robocall, the recording claimed to be the voice of a “Tamika Taylor from Project 1599, the civil rights organization founded by Jack Burkman and Jacob Wohl.” The recording asked those being called if they knew that “if you vote by mail, your personal information will be part of a public database that will be used by police departments to track down old warrants and be used by credit card companies to collect outstanding debts.” The call went on to say that information from mail-in voting could also be used by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “to track people for mandatory vaccines” despite there being no such mandatory vaccine policy.

After the scheme was uncovered, Burkman and Wohl were ordered to contact the call’s recipients to inform them that the previous message contained false information. The National Coalition on Black Civic Participation also worked to fight the disinformation. Still, the robocall scheme had significant repercussions. As an example, the attorney general’s office cited one recipient of the call who said that he experienced “severe anxiety and distress and ultimately withdrew his voter registration” as a result of the disinformation. The $1 million fine assessed to Burkman and Wohl will be paid to the attorney general’s office, the National Coalition on Black Civic Participation and victims who received the call; the amount can increase to $1.25 million if the payments are not made promptly.

The 5,500 calls made to New Yorkers by Wohl and Burkman’s fake organization were part of a larger national scheme; they are believed to have called 85,000 people throughout the United States. The pair have been punished in a variety of jurisdictions beyond New York. Burkman and Wohl were charged with election fraud in Michigan and Ohio in 2020; in the latter case, a judge sentenced them to hundreds of hours of community service registering voters. The Federal Communications Commission has also fined them $5 million for their robocalls. Before 2020, Wohl and Burkman were also involved in schemes to accuse Democrats of sexual misconduct falsely.

Although Burkman and Wohl have been extensively punished for their schemes, disinformation remains a concern, with Black communities being a particular target. Thus, authorities and voting advocates will likely stay on high alert for similar schemes as the 2024 election cycle continues.