Last yr, a Pennsylvania man amassed 1000’s of followers on Twitter by impersonating family members of former President Donald J. Trump. In November, he even duped Mr. Trump, who messaged the man “LOVE!” whereas considering he was writing to considered one of his sisters.
The New York Times later recognized the man as Josh Hall, a 21-year-old food-delivery driver and Trump supporter, and confirmed that he had used the accounts to gather 1000’s of for a faux political group.
On Tuesday, federal authorities arrested Mr. Hall and charged him with fraud and identification theft.
Mr. Hall pretended to be members of the Trump household “to fraudulently induce hundreds of victims to donate to a political organization that did not exist, and then pocketed those funds for his own use,” Audrey Strauss, the U.S. lawyer in Manhattan, stated in a information launch.
Josh Hall was charged with fraud and identification theft.Credit…Josh Hall
Mr. Hall’s arrest is a uncommon occasion of felony prices filed towards somebody for creating faux accounts on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and different social networks are rife with tens of millions of faux accounts, lots of which impersonate politicians, celebrities and troopers to rip-off folks out of cash. But few of the folks behind the fakes ever face penalties.
Mr. Hall attracted the eye of the Federal Bureau of Investigation after he posed as 5 members of Mr. Trump’s household on Twitter, amassing greater than 160,000 followers on the positioning. Over a yr, he pretended to be, amongst others, Robert Trump, the president’s brother; Barron Trump, the president’s teenage son; and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator on the time.
He used the accounts to direct folks to donate to a political group known as Gay Voices for Trump. Mr. Hall later instructed The Times that the group didn’t exist. He introduced in additional than $7,300. The Justice Department stated on Tuesday that Mr. Hall had saved the cash.
Mr. Hall appeared in federal court docket in Harrisburg, Pa., on Tuesday, the Justice Department stated. He may resist 22 years in jail, the division stated.
Mr. Hall couldn’t be instantly reached on Tuesday. He instructed The Times final yr that his faux accounts have been clear parodies and that anybody ought to have recognized that, together with Mr. Trump, by studying a few of their sometimes juvenile posts.
“There was no nefarious intention behind it,” Mr. Hall stated. “I was just trying to rally up MAGA supporters and have fun,” he added, referring to the abbreviation for Mr. Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”