William Sweeney, assistant director in charge the FBI’s New York field office, called Mackey’s alleged efforts “nothing short of vote theft.”
Mackey was arrested in West Palm Beach, Fla., and charged with conspiracy against rights. The Florida public defender who represented him at his court appearance Wednesday could not be reached for comment. Mackey was expected to be released on a $50,000 bond.
Authorities said that Mackey used multiple social media accounts and conspired with others online in a bid to prevent people from voting for Clinton, who won the 2016 popular vote despite losing the electoral college.
One of his Twitter accounts, @Ricky_Vaughn99, had about 58,000 followers at the time it was suspended by Twitter in October 2016. The account was rated the 107th most influential with respect to the that year’s election, according to an analysis done by the MIT Media Lab — ahead of accounts belonging to former House speaker Newt Gingrich, “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert and NBC News, according to the criminal complaint.
A person with knowledge of the case, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss it with the media, said that Mackey was not charged before now because it was a complex investigation — one that did not begin until it was discovered that Mackey was behind the Ricky Vaughn persona. That was revealed in a HuffPost article published in April 2018.
The Justice Department under President Donald Trump faced extensive criticism from the president and other Republicans for pursuing criminal cases connected to the 2016 election — most notably the investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III, who spent two years examining Russia’s interference in that presidential contest and whether anyone in Trump’s campaign conspired with those efforts.
Seth DuCharme, the acting U.S. attorney in Brooklyn and a holdover from the Trump administration, said in a statement Wednesday that, “With Mackey’s arrest, we serve notice that those who would subvert the democratic process in this manner cannot rely on the cloak of Internet anonymity to evade responsibility for their crimes.”