A Pennsylvania man was arrested Tuesday and charged with creating fake online identities for former President Donald Trump’s family members to deceive people nationwide into donating thousands of dollars to what prosecutors described as a phony political organization.
Joshua Hall, 22, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, was released on $25,000 bail after appearing in Harrisburg federal court to face charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, authorities said.
Hall is accused of spending contributions on personal expenses after soliciting donations to his fake political organization, called "Gay Voices for Trump," according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
Court papers said Hall defrauded donors between September 2019 through last December by falsely claiming he was raising funds to support Trump’s reelection.
FILE - Generic gavel on wooden table.
Central to the scheme was Hall’s impersonation of members of Trump’s family, prosecutors said. They said he created social media accounts bearing the names and photographs of Trump’s brother and son to convince over 100,000 online followers that he was close to Trump’s family.
According to a criminal complaint in Manhattan federal court, Hall increased his efforts last July, soliciting contributions on a crowdfunding site for what he said would be "field organizing, events, and merchandise" by his political organization. Hall raised more than $7,000 from unsuspecting victims, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
Hall created a social media account bearing the name and photograph of Trump’s brother, Robert, and then made it appear that the brother was supporting his bogus organization until the brother’s August death, the complaint said.
Three days after the death, Hall created an account that made it appear that Trump’s then 14-year-old son, Barron, was supporting him, the complaint said.
FILE - U.S. President Donald Trump (3R) stands with his family members on the South Lawn of the White House Aug. 27, 2020.
The complaint said that in one social media post, Hall impersonated Barron Trump to make it seem that Trump’s son called Hall a "friend and partner" and said: "Josh is an amazing patriot who is doing tremendous things for our great country. He has my COMPLETE AND TOTAL ENDORSEMENT!"
In August, Hall said in a private message on social media about the funds he had raised that he "hadn’t seen a dime of that money personally," court papers said.
The crowdfunding site closed the account after Hall failed last December to document how he used the funds he had raised, the complaint said.
If convicted, he could face up to 22 years in prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report. It was reported from Cincinnati.