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NH attorney general, FCC trace AI robocalls impersonating Biden back to Texas company

Josh Rogers
/
NHPR

State and federal authorities have traced robocalls that encouraged Democrats not to vote in the New Hampshire presidential primary back to a Texas company and its owner.

The calls used artificial intelligence to simulate the voice of President Joe Biden and reached roughly 20,000 people ahead of the Jan. 23 election.

With more elections on the horizon, New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said he and other attorneys general are concerned about the proliferation of deep-fake election meddling.

New Hampshire Attorney General John Formella said Tuesday that his office has issued a cease and desist order against Life Corporation of Arlington, Texas, which it says is owned by businessman Walter Monk. Formella's office said Lingo Telecom, a telecommunications company based in Texas, was “the originating voice service provider for many of these calls.”

“We will continue to work to identify all individuals or entities who may be responsible for these acts accountable," Formella said. "And we are keeping all enforcement options on the table."

Neither of the companies implicated by authorities returned NHPR’s requests for comment on Tuesday, nor did Monk respond to messages left at his company, Wholesale Communications.

State authorities say Lingo Telecom “suspended services to Life Corporation” after learning of the investigation into the robocalls. The Federal Communications Commission, meanwhile, sent a cease-and-desist letter to Lingo Telecom to stop what it called “behavior that violates voter suppression laws.”

With more state primaries on the horizon, Formella said he and other attorneys general are concerned about the proliferation of deep-fake election meddling. Right now, he said investigators are working to identify other individuals or companies who could be responsible.

“The message to any person or company who would attempt to engage in these activities is clear and it’s simple: Don’t try it,” Formella emphasized at a news conference in Concord.

Formella was circumspect when asked about the potential motivation for the robocalls.

“We are going to get to that but we are not prepared to comment on what we think the motivation might be,” Formella said.

In its notice to Lingo Telecom, the FCC said Lingo and Life Corporation have previously been implicated in placing illegal robocalls.

The agency noted that since 2021, Lingo had been “the gateway provider responsible for 61 suspected illegal calls originating overseas.” The FCC said it also cited Life Corporation for making “apparently illegal prerecorded and unsolicited-advertisement to residential lines in 2003.”

Monk, Life Corporation's owner, is a serial entrepreneur and tech investor. He has told interviewers that his pursuits include running gas stations, operating bars, manufacturing beef jerky and starting a dating service.

In another interview, Monk said he ran a company that performed political surveys and fundraising via text messaging, called Text2Survey. He claimed the company has sent millions of pre-election text messages.

The AI phone messages at the center of the New Hampshire incident were sent out on Jan. 21 — two days before the state's presidential primary. They used the Biden catchphrase, “What a bunch of malarkey,” before encouraging recipients to skip the state primary and save their votes for November.

Biden won the Democratic primary here as a write-in candidate. He declined to compete in New Hampshire because the state violated the Democratic National Committee’s official 2024 primary schedule, which made South Carolina its lead-off contest.

Josh has worked at NHPR since 2000.
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