CONCORD, N.H. — Texas-based Life Corporation and a person named Walter Monk have been linked as the source of fake President Biden robocalls sent out last month encouraging voters not to vote in the presidential primary election in New Hampshire.
Authorities are issuing a cease-and-desist order to Life Corporation for violating state election law that “prohibits any person from engaging in voter suppression by knowingly attempting to prevent or deter another person from voting or registering to vote based on fraudulent, deceptive, misleading, or spurious grounds or information,” Attorney General John Formella said Tuesday.
The cease-and-desist order requires Life Corporation to “immediately cease” violating this and all other New Hampshire election laws, and the order notes that “the Election Law Unit reserves the right to take further enforcement actions based on conduct preceding the date of the order,” Formella said.
The Jan. 21 robocalls were received by “numerous New Hampshire residents,” and “directly encouraged recipients not to participate in the New Hampshire Primary,” said Formella, whose office launched an investigation into these calls.
That investigation involved state and federal agencies including the Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force, which is a bipartisan task force made up of 50 state attorneys general, and the Federal Communications Commission Enforcement Bureau, Formella said.
“Ensuring public confidence in the electoral process is vital. AI-generated recordings used to deceive voters have the potential to have devastating effects on the democratic election process,” said Formella. “I would like to thank the members of our Election Law Unit, the experts from the offices of my fellow state Attorneys General who make up the Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force, as well as members of the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau for their invaluable support, cooperation, and investigative efforts in this matter.”
“I would also like to thank YouMail and Nomorobo for helping to identify these robocalls, as well as Industry Traceback Group for its efforts in tracing the source of the identified robocalls,” Formella said. “The partnership and fast action in this matter sends a clear message that law enforcement, regulatory agencies, and industry are staying vigilant and are working closely together to monitor and investigate any signs of AI being used maliciously to threaten our democratic process.”
According to investigators, the robocalls specifically stated: “It’s important that you save your vote for the November election,” as well as “Your vote makes a difference in November, not this Tuesday.”
“The robocalls also illegally spoofed their caller ID information to appear to come from a number belonging to a former New Hampshire Democratic Party Chair. The message instructed recipients to call the number belonging to that person to be removed from future calls,” Formella said.
After identifying specific calls, the Election Law Unit requested ‘tracebacks’ through an entity known as Industry Traceback Group, Formella said.
“These tracebacks identified the source of the calls to be Life Corporation and Walter Monk. The tracebacks further identified the originating voice service provider for many of these calls to be Texas-based Lingo Telecom,” Formella said. “After Lingo Telecom was informed that these calls were being investigated, Lingo Telecom suspended services to Life Corporation.”
The attorney general’s Election Law Unit is also issuing “document preservation notices and subpoenas for records to Life Corporation and to multiple other entities, including Lingo Telecom, that may possess records relevant to the Attorney General’s ongoing investigation,” Formella said.
Investigators have also been working closely with the Federal Communications Commission’s Enforcement Bureau. On Tuesday, the FCC “issued a cease-and-desist letter against Texas-based Lingo Telecom—the entity that is alleged to have originated robocall traffic using AI-generated voice cloning to spread misinformation to voters prior to New Hampshire’s primary election,” Formella said.
The letter demands the company “immediately stop supporting illegal robocall traffic on its networks,” Formella said. In addition, the Bureau issued an order, which “strongly encourages other providers to refrain from carrying suspicious traffic from Lingo. The FCC may require other network providers affiliated with Lingo to block its traffic should the company continue this behavior.”
Separately, the Election Law Unit has been working with the Anti-Robocall Multistate Litigation Task Force on the matter, Formella said.
On Tuesday, “the Task Force is issuing a letter to Life Corporation notifying the company that the Task Force received information identifying Life Corporation as the originating calling customer responsible for transmitting the suspected illegal robocall traffic,” Formella said. “That notice will request that Life Corporation ensure that the company is following all applicable federal and state laws, including the Telephone Consumer Protection Act; the Truth in Caller ID Act; and the Telemarketing and Consumer Fraud and Abuse Prevention Act, Telemarking Sales Rule.”
The Attorney General said he is continuing to investigate potential election law violations, consumer protection act violations, and telephone consumer protection act violations, while still determining the total number of robocalls made.
The call monitoring service, Nomorobo, estimates between 5,000 and 25,000 calls were made.
“The Election Law Unit is also aware of media reports that the recorded message was likely made using software from ElevenLabs,” Formella said. “At this time, the Unit is continuing to investigate and cannot confirm whether that reporting is accurate.”
“Finally, the Attorney General is continuing to investigate whether Life Corporation worked with or at the direction of any other persons or entities and at this time cannot comment on whether other persons or entities were involved,” authorities said.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.
Download the FREE Boston 25 News app for breaking news alerts.
©2024 Cox Media Group