A Pennsylvania man has been charged for impersonating members of former US President Donald Trump's family and defrauding hundreds of his supporters during his re-election bid last year.
Joshua Hall, a 22-year-old from Mechanicsburg, was taken into custody in Manhattan on Tuesday morning on one count each of wire fraud and identity theft, the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Southern District of New York said. The federal prosecutors revealed that Hall raised thousands of dollars by falsely claiming that he is a part of a political group that is campaigning for a second term for Trump, and that his work is backed by the Trump family as well.
The said political group did not exist, and Hall was using the donations for his personal expenses. The crowdfunding website Hall used to collect the money closed his account after he failed to provide details about where the raised amount was going, reports Reuters.
His social media accounts, where he boasted himself as being close to the then-first family, attracted more than 100,000 followers. He used to impersonate the family members to convince Trump supporters of his credibility. On one occasion in August last year, Hall impersonated Donald and Melania Trump's then 14-year-old son Barron, who described Hall as his "friend and partner." "Josh is an amazing patriot who is doing tremendous things for our great country. He has my COMPLETE AND TOTAL ENDORSEMENT!" Hall said while pretending to be Barron.
In his defense, Hall says there was "no nefarious intention" behind his actions and he was simply trying to rally Trump supporters and "have fun." He had openly discussed his impersonation of Trump's family members in an interview with The New York Times in December last year, where he revealed that he even managed to fool the president himself.
The former POTUS had retweeted an article that said his older sister Elizabeth Trump Grau has joined Twitter to support his presidential bid, and told her thanks for her support. However, the Twitter account mentioned in the article was Hall's.
Hall said about the incident: "I was like, 'Oh, my goodness. He actually thinks it's his sister.'"