A 22-year old Pennsylvania man raked in thousands of dollars by impersonating various members of the Trump family, Manhattan federal prosecutors said on Tuesday.
Joshua Hall is facing charges of wire fraud and identity theft after allegedly creating fake social media accounts of lower-profile Trump family members like Barron Trump, Robert Trump, and Elizabeth Trump Grau to collect money.
Hall spoke to the New York Times about the accounts in December 2020 after former president Trump tweeted about an article that referenced the scheme he was running, apparently mistaking Hall’s version of Elizabeth Trump Grau for the real thing.
“Thank you Elizabeth,” Trump wrote. “LOVE!”
Trump was referring to an article that incorrectly perceived an account that Hall was running under the name Betty Trump to be Elizabeth Trump Grau, the former president’s camera-shy sister.
But according to a criminal complaint submitted by an FBI agent in the investigation, the former president was citing a plot by a random Pennsylvania con artist to cash in on the Trump name.
Hall allegedly created a fake political organization to receive funds. The plot allegedly started off in September 2019, with Hall creating several social media accounts impersonating famous people who then endorsed what prosecutors describe as Hall’s political organization.
Hall allegedly did this through a crowdfunding platform that media reports have identified as GoFundMe, used to send money to Hall’s group Gay Voices for Trump.
Among those that Hall impersonated was Robert Trump, who died in August 2020. The charging document says that Hall impersonated an unidentified Trump sibling who died on the day as Robert, having the fake account post: “Josh is doing great work so please give him a follow and support him” while saying that the person “runs” Gay Voices for Trump.
After Robert’s death, prosecutors said, Hall moved on to Trump’s “minor child” – presumably Barron Trump.
“Josh is an amazing patriot who is doing tremendous things for our great country,” read one fake Barron Trump post that Hall allegedly created. “He has my COMPLETE AND TOTAL ENDORSEMENT!”
The scheme allegedly brought in only around $7,000, raised from people who purportedly believed that the accounts were actually Trump family members, though he netted more than 160,000 followers across his accounts.
In addition to Barron, Robert, and Elizabeth Trump Grau, Hall also created accounts impersonating Maryanne Trump Barry and Dr. Deborah Birx, the former White House COVID-19 coordinator.
Prosecutors said that Hall was arrested in Pennsylvania on Tuesday morning.
The New York Times reported that Hall had wanted to become a conservative talk-radio personality, and was trying to build his online brand to achieve that goal.
One account identified by the New York Times as being run by Hall last posted on Gab on Monday.
“I am running for Congress as the first openly LGBTQ Republican to ever serve in the people’s House,” one Monday post reads. “Wanna trigger the straight white liberals who make up the pride month cult? Send this proud Trump-loving fruitcake to Congress.”