Internet troll arrested for fraud over ‘Gay Voices for Trump’ scam that fooled Trump himself
Internet troll Josh Hall has been arrested and charged for fraud and identity theft after impersonating several of Donald Trump’s family members online and raising funds for fake “Gay Voices for Trump” group.
Hall, 22, of Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania, faces up to 22 years in prison if found guilty of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft, federal authorities announced Tuesday (8 June).
Manhattan US attorney Audrey said Hall “allegedly impersonated family members” of Trump on social media to “fraudulently induce hundreds of victims to donate to a political organisation that did not exist”.
Strauss added that Hall “pocketed those funds for his own use”.
Late last year, Hall admitted to the New York Times that he was behind several social media accounts impersonating members of the Trump family. He reportedly used the accounts to promote a fictitious group called “Gay Voices for Trump”. The group – which claimed to be a “grassroots coalition of LGBT Americans” supporting Donald Trump – raised over $7,300 on GoFundMe.
Hall told the New York Times that he “didn’t end up ever really doing anything with the Gay Voices for Trump” and claimed he “never got the funds from it”. However, a spokesperson for GoFundMe told the news outlet that the money had been withdrawn by the organiser – an account listed as Josh H.
In a press statement, the Department of Justice said the funds were used by Hall for his “personal living expenses”. William F Sweeney Jr, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI, said Hall “led hundreds of people to believe they were donating to an organisation 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,” Sweeney said.
The New York Times reported that Hall’s arrest is a rare instance of criminal charges being levied against someone for creating fake accounts on social media. The practice is rife across Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and even dating sites like Tinder and Grindr.
The newspaper said Hall pretended to be five members of Donald Trump’s family including Robert Trump, the former president’s brother, and Barron Trump, his teenage son. His accounts garnered over 160,000 followers on Twitter and were so convincing that the then-president even fell for one of Hall’s accounts posing as Trump’s sister.
Hall told the New York Times last year that there was “no nefarious intention” behind his fake accounts. Instead, he claimed: “I was just trying to rally up MAGA supporters and have fun.”