July 24, 2012
CHARLESTON – A 27-month investigation by the Secretary of State Natalie E. Tennant’s Office continues to yield results. The latest charges filed by the US Attorney’s Office accuse Lincoln County Commissioner Thomas Ramey, Jr., with lying to federal investigators in connection with an ongoing joint state-federal investigation into the absentee voting process in Lincoln County during the 2010 primary.
“The charge filed shows that I and the Secretary of State’s Office do not tolerate election law violations,” Secretary Tennant said. “We did not give up on this investigation and will target any attempt in any election to chip away at our democracy.”
Ramey is the third Lincoln County official to be charged in connection to this case. Former Lincoln County Clerk Donald Whitten and former Lincoln County Sheriff Jerry Bowman have pleaded guilty to federal charges and face sentencing at a later date.
“I am proud of the work of the staff of the Secretary of State’s Office. Months went by and we kept investigating. One of our investigators was threatened at gunpoint while he was trying to question someone about this case.”
In February, James Matheny of Midkiff was arrested for threatening at gunpoint investigators from the Secretary of State’s Office and FBI who were interviewing witnesses in connection to the absentee voting case. In May, Matheny was convicted of assault with a deadly weapon on a federal officer and a person assisting a federal officer. Matheny is in jail awaiting sentencing.
“Allegations of election law violations are serious and will be investigated,” Tennant said. “I am proud of the partnership between the Secretary of State investigators and the federal investigators.”
U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin charged Lincoln County Commissioner Thomas Ramey, Jr., with making a false statement to an FBI agent in connection with an absentee voting fraud investigation. According to a charging document filed by Goodwin this morning, Ramey falsely told an FBI agent he did not know who altered certain absentee ballot applications after they were filed with the Lincoln County Clerk’s office.
In fact, Goodwin says, Ramey himself had caused someone else to alter the applications and was present when that person altered the applications. The charging document says Ramey made the false statement on or around February 7, 2012.
Earlier this year, two other Lincoln County officials pled guilty and resigned their offices in connection with an absentee vote fraud scheme. Former Lincoln County Sheriff Jerry Bowman pled guilty to conspiring to deprive voters of their rights. Former Lincoln County Clerk Donald Whitten pled guilty to making a false statement to an investigator.
If convicted, Ramey faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The charge results from an investigation conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and investigator Jim Wise of the West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office. Counsel to the United States Attorney Steve Ruby and Assistant United States Attorney Thomas Ryan are leading the prosecution.
Commission President Charles McCann said that Ramey, 32, submitted a letter sometime Monday, announcing his plans to resign. The commission will hold an emergency meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday to accept the resignation.
Ramey is also expected to plead guilty, according to previously published reports.
(Editor’s Note: The charges contained in an Information are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.)