FBI: Pennsylvania Man Scammed Thousands by Impersonating Trump Family Members (AP)
By Charles Kim | Tuesday, 08 June 2021 07:11 PM
A Pennsylvania man is facing up to 20 years in prison for allegedly impersonating members of former President Donald Trump’s family online to scam thousands of dollars for his own use, according to federal law enforcement officials.
Joshua Hall, 22, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania is in federal custody Tuesday after FBI agents arrested him for allegedly pretending to be members of the former president’s family online, bringing in more than $7,000 in donations to a bogus political organization working to re-elect Trump, court documents said.
“Hall led hundreds of people to believe they were donating to an organization that didn’t exist by pretending to be someone he wasn’t, as alleged,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr., said in a press release announcing Hall’s arrest and charges Tuesday. “As we continue to investigate fraud in all its many forms, we urge the public to remain aware of the prevalence of online scams and exercise due diligence when making donations online.”
Hall was arrested and charged with wire fraud and identity theft and was set to appear in Harrisburg federal court in front of United States Magistrate Judge Susan E. Schwab, according to the release.
If convicted, Hall could spend up to 20 years in prison on the wire fraud charge and two years for the identity theft, officials said.
According to the complaint, Hall started the ruse sometime during September 2019 by opening fake social media accounts in the names and with photographs of Trump family members and other supporters of the president.
Included in the list were Trump’s late brother Robert and son Barron, described in the complaint as “minor victim 2.”
Hall created posts by these fake family members endorsing and encouraging visitors to his crowdfunding site to contribute to him, the complaint said.
This, according to the complaint, continued into December 2020 after the election, when the New York Times investigated what he was doing and exposed the scam in a Dec. 8 story.
“There was no nefarious intention behind it,” Hall said in the Times story. “I was just trying to rally up MAGA supporters and have fun.”
The ruse was good enough, the Times reported, that when Hall posted a fake tweet of support by the president’s "sister" Elizabeth Trump Grau, the man himself responded on twitter and re-tweeted the post.
“Thank you, Elizabeth,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “LOVE!”
Hall will face trial on the charges in New York, officials said.