• Sat. Sep 18th, 2021

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Man posed as Trump’s family to steal thousands from supporters, feds say

A man accused of impersonating members of former President Donald Trump’s family to steal thousands from his supporters was arrested on Tuesday morning, federal prosecutors said.

Joshua Hall, 22, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, was taken into custody on one count each of wire fraud and identity theft, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York said in a statement. He appeared in court for the first time on Tuesday.

Hall allegedly raised funds for a pro-Trump reelection organization that did not exist through the “creation and use of social media accounts bearing those family members’ names and photographs,” according to the criminal complaint.

“Hall used those accounts to amass more than 100,000 followers on social media and obtain media coverage,” the complaint said. He allegedly posed as several members of the former president’s family, including his brother, Robert, and his youngest son, Barron, The New York Times reported last year.

Instead of funding the purported reelection organization, prosecutors alleged Hall used the money raised for “his own personal living expenses.”

“In total, the scheme devised and executed by Hall yielded thousands of dollars from hundreds of victims located throughout the United States, including in the Southern District of New York,” according to the statement.

Investigators said Hall created the numerous fake social media accounts between September 2019 and November 2020. While impersonating Barron in August, Hall allegedly said in a tweet: “Josh is an amazing patriot who is doing tremendous things for our great country. He has my COMPLETE AND TOTAL ENDORSEMENT!'”

Efforts to reach Hall were unsuccessful Wednesday. It was unclear if he had an attorney.

Hall told The Times last year that he ran multiple accounts under Trump’s name “to rally up MAGA supporters and have fun.”

“There was no nefarious intention behind it,” he said.

A self-described bisexual Trump supporter, Hall told the newspaper that he struggled to make ends meet, holding stints as a hotel clerk, sandwich maker and most recently as a DoorDash food delivery courier. He found success posing as Trump’s family members who didn’t have Twitter accounts and making false claims about Covid-19 and QAnon, according to The Times.

Hall admitted that his group, Gay Voices for Trump, “a grass-roots coalition of LGBT Americans” that raised more than $7,000 in a GoFundMe campaign to go toward “field organizing, events and merchandise,” was not real.

He told The Times that he “never got the funds from it” — a claim that a GoFundMe spokesperson appeared to reject, saying that the organizer, an account named Josh H., had withdrawn the money.

“I should have used better judgment and stuff,” he said. “But I didn’t deliberately try and dupe people out of money.”

In the statement, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. 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 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.”