(AP) — A Pennsylvania
man was charged Tuesday with creating bogus online identities for ex-President Donald Trump
's brother and youngest son in order to dupe hundreds of people
across the country into donating thousands of dollars to what prosecutors called a phony political organization.
Joshua Hall, 22, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, was released on $25,000 bail after appearing in federal court in Harrisburg to face charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. If convicted, he could face up to 22 years in prison
Prosecutors claimed Hall used donations for personal expenses after soliciting funds for his non-existent political affinity organization.
His lawyer was sent a message requesting comment.
According to court documents, Hall defrauded donors from September 2019 to December 2018 by falsely claiming to be raising funds to support Trump's reelection.
Prosecutors said Hall's impersonation of members of Trump's family was central to the scheme, and that he created social media
accounts bearing the names and photographs of Trump's brother and son in order to persuade over 100,000 online followers that he was close to Trump's family.
According to a criminal complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan
last July, Hall stepped up his efforts, soliciting contributions on a crowdfunding site for what he claimed would be “field organizing, events, and merchandise” by his political organization.
According to the complaint, Hall set up a social media account with the name and photograph of Trump's brother, Robert, and then pretended that the brother was supporting his bogus organization until the brother's death
According to the complaint, Hall set up an account three days after the death that made it appear as if Trump's then-14-year-old son, Barron, was supporting him.
According to the complaint, Hall impersonated Trump's son, Barron Trump, in one social media post, calling Hall a "friend and partner" and saying, "Josh is an amazing patriot who is doing tremendous things for our great country. He has my COMPLETE AND TOTAL ENDORSEMENT!"
According to court documents, Hall stated in an August private message on social media about the funds he raised that he "hadn't seen a dime of that money
According to the complaint, the crowdfunding site terminated Hall's account after he failed to document how he used the funds he raised last December.