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Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at a drive-in rally at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park on Nov. 1, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP) Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at a drive-in rally at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park on Nov. 1, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP)

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks at a drive-in rally at Franklin Delano Roosevelt Park on Nov. 1, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP)

Daniel Funke
By Daniel Funke November 18, 2020

Joe Biden did not hire the mob to fabricate ballots in Philadelphia

If Your Time is short

  • The source of the allegation is the Buffalo Chronicle, a website that has published false claims about Canadian politics and prospective members of Joe Biden’s administration. The site’s article relies on anonymous sources.

  • There is no evidence the Biden campaign hired a mob boss named “Skinny Joey” Merlino to fabricate hundreds of thousands of ballots in Philadelphia. Officials have said the election was “the most transparent and secure” in the city’s history.

  • Merlino’s lawyer denied that his client had anything to do with a purported voter fraud scheme. The reputed Philadelphia mob veteran has been on supervised release in South Florida since 2018.

If you’ve seen a post that claims Joe Biden hired the Philadelphia mob to rig the presidential election results, you should forget about it.

In a Nov. 17 Facebook post, Jeremy Herrell, a Donald Trump supporter and hip-hop artist who runs a popular conservative page whose handle is @TheHipHopPatriot, said Biden hired the mob to "crate (sic) fake ballots by the thousands."

"We have breaking news of how the mob, reportedly at this point, has helped Joe Biden get thousands and thousands and thousands of fraudulent votes," he said during a Facebook Live video. "You cannot make this stuff up, ladies and gentlemen."

Actually, you can — the claim is baseless.

Herrell’s video was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.) It has more than 176,000 views.

(Screenshot from Facebook)

We reached out to his page for a comment, but we haven’t heard back.

During his video, Herrell cites a Nov. 14 report from the Buffalo Chronicle with the headline: "How a Philly mob boss stole the election — and why he may flip on Joe Biden." The Buffalo Chronicle website is owned by businessman Matthew Ricchiazzi. It has published false claims about prospective members of the Biden administration, Canadian politics and New York’s response to COVID-19.

This new Buffalo Chronicle article cites anonymous sources to say the Biden campaign paid $3 million to "Skinny Joey" Merlino, a reputed mafia veteran in Philadelphia, and Merlino’s associates to fabricate 300,000 ballots in the battleground state. On Election Night, the site claims, Merlino and his team were creating 6,000 fraudulent ballots per hour.

"They were then packaged into non-descript cardboard boxes and dropped off outside the Philadelphia Convention Center," the article says. "The ballots were purchased in cash."

The Buffalo Chronicle wrote that Merlino "might just be willing to flip on Biden" if Trump expunges his criminal record. Merlino would "really like a job with the National Parks Service," according to the site’s anonymous source.

There is no evidence the Biden campaign hired a mob boss to fabricate hundreds of thousands of ballots in Pennsylvania. The article plays into other baseless claims that widespread voter fraud in battleground states affected the outcome of the presidential race.

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On Nov. 16, the Buffalo Chronicle story was shared on Twitter by attorney Jordan Sekulow, who — along with his father Jay Sekulow — is a member of Trump’s legal team. The Sekulows have helped the president mount legal challenges in battleground states over the election results.

"This is being reported by the Buffalo Chronicle," Herrell said in his video. "And it is verified by Jordan Sekulow."

Jordan Sekulow shared the link and said "follow all leads." Meanwhile, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer who recently falsely claimed there were hundreds of thousands of "unlawful votes" in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, told Fox Business the allegation was "far-fetched."

We reached out to the Buffalo Chronicle for a comment, but we haven’t heard back.

There is no evidence of widespread voter fraud in Philadelphia — and certainly not hundreds of thousands of fabricated ballots favoring Biden.

"We just had the most transparent and secure election in the history of Philadelphia," said Philadelphia City Commissioner Al Schmidt, a Republican who sits on the city’s elections board, in a Nov. 11 interview with CNN. "I have seen the most fantastical things on social media, making completely ridiculous allegations that have no basis in fact at all."

In a Nov. 12 statement, a committee made up of U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency officials and its election partners said that, nationwide, this election was "the most secure in American history."

RELATED: How we know Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential race

"There is no evidence that any voting system deleted or lost votes, changed votes, or was in any way compromised," the agency wrote. "While we know there are many unfounded claims and opportunities for misinformation about the process of our elections, we can assure you we have the utmost confidence in the security and integrity of our elections, and you should too."

As for Merlino, the purported mob boss has been on supervised release in South Florida since 2018, when he took a plea deal in a racketeering and conspiracy case. During his most recent trial, Merlino said he had retired from the mob and was focused on running an upscale Italian restaurant in Boca Raton, Fla.

Merlino’s lawyer denied his client was part of any voter fraud scheme in Pennsylvania. 

"My client categorically denies all the allegations and Joey would rather die than ever be a snitch," John Meringolo told the New York Daily News.

We reached out to the Biden transition team for a comment, but we haven’t heard back.

The Facebook post is inaccurate and makes a ridiculous claim. We rate it Pants on Fire!

Our Sources

The Buffalo Chronicle, "EXCLUSIVE: How a Philly mob boss stole the election — and why he may flip on Joe Biden," Nov. 14, 2020

BuzzFeed News, "The Canadian Election’s Surprise Influencer Is A Buffalo Man Targeting Canadians With Viral Disinformation," Oct. 18, 2019

CNN transcripts, Trump's Refusal to Start Transition Comes as COVID Ravages U.S.; U.S. Sees Record Cases, Hospitalizations, 1,400 Deaths in One Day; Trump Attacks Philly's GOP Election Official for Saying No Fraud. Aired 1-1:30p ET

CrowdTangle, accessed Nov. 18, 2020

Facebook Live video, Nov. 17, 2020

Fox News, "Jordan Sekulow: President's legal team working on two theories to bolster defense against impeachment," Dec. 21, 2019

Law360, "Trump Unleashes Barrage Of Lawsuits In Battleground States," Nov. 4, 2020

Lead Stories, "Fact Check: New York Is NOT Banning Cigarette Sales To Combat COVID-19," April 2, 2020

NBC 10 Philadelphia, "Judge Declares Mistrial in Philadelphia Mob Boss Fraud Case," Feb. 20, 2018

NewsGuard, buffalochronicle.com

New York Daily News, "President Trump’s lawyer puts Philadelphia mobster ‘Skinny Joey’ Merlino at center of election conspiracy," Nov. 17, 2020

The New York Times, "In Jay Sekulow, Trump Taps Longtime Loyalist for Impeachment Defense," Jan. 17, 2020

The Philadelphia Inquirer, "2-year sentence for ‘Skinny Joey’ Merlino, reputed longtime Philly mob boss," Oct. 17, 2018

The Philly Voice, "Reputed mob boss Joey Merlino roped into bizarre Philly election fraud conspiracy," Nov. 17, 2020

Politico, "GOP-led states back Trump’s legal drive to challenge election," Nov. 9, 2020

PolitiFact, "Giuliani’s false claim of more than 600,000 unlawful votes in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia," Nov. 13, 2020

PolitiFact, "How online misinformation unfolded after Election Day, boosted by Trump and his allies," Nov. 6, 2020

PolitiFact, "No, Joe Biden hasn’t asked Mitt Romney to be his health and human services secretary," Nov. 9, 2020

Tweet from Jennifer Jacobs, Nov. 17, 2020

Tweet from Jordan Sekulow, Nov. 16, 2020

U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, JOINT STATEMENT FROM ELECTIONS INFRASTRUCTURE GOVERNMENT COORDINATING COUNCIL & THE ELECTION INFRASTRUCTURE SECTOR COORDINATING EXECUTIVE COMMITTEES, Nov. 12, 2020

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Joe Biden did not hire the mob to fabricate ballots in Philadelphia

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