A federal grand jury has charged three suspected fraudsters who used robocalls to dupe unsuspecting contributors into handing over money under the guise of supporting a political cause during the 2016 presidential election.
According to the indictment, Matthew Nelson Tunstall, 34, Robert Reyes Jr., 38, and Kyle George Davies, 29, solicited contributions to the Liberty Action Group PAC and Progressive Priorities PAC on the false premise that they supported or were affiliated with then-presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
Another ruse is to support American leaders. Tunstall’s Trump PAC, which was founded in 2018, received a taxpayer-backed loan under the Paycheck Protection Program, which was designed to lift small companies out of the pandemic-fueled slump.
The three men have been charged with conspiracy to conduct wire fraud and making a false statement to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), as well as several counts of wire fraud. Tunstall and Reyes are also charged with money laundering on numerous counts.
An FBI investigation revealed that between January 2016 and April 2017, the trio collected approximately $3.5 million from donors via scripted robocalls that, according to the indictment, used “false and misleading representations” to extort money from Trump and Clinton supporters and “enrich themselves directly.”
“Of the approximately $3.5 million raised by Liberty Action Group and Progressive Priorities, only approximately $19 were distributed to any candidate’s authorized campaign committee or to any political cause,” the indictment states.
Meanwhile, $1.5 million was sent to Tunstall’s personal and company accounts. According to the indictment, about $714,000 was moved to Reyes’ accounts and approximately $84,000 was transferred to Davies’ accounts.
According to a record of one robocall intercepted by investigators, the Liberty Action Group PAC, which fraudulently purported to be affiliated with Trump, issued a plea four years ahead of its time, urging supporters to send money to guarantee “this election isn’t STOLEN from the American people.” According to the indictment, a different script for Progressive Priorities urged funders to help elect the “first female president in U.S. history.”
The robocalls also included audio snippets of Trump and Clinton and requested for “emergency” contributions in return for a sticker or a “exclusive” autographed picture of the candidate “suitable for framing” for donations of $1,000 or more.
The men allegedly “used the names of others—at times without their knowledge or permission—and forged names on filings to the FEC and on other documents relating to the PACs to conceal and disguise their role in the fraudulent scheme,” according to the indictment.
Daily Beast: Matt Tunstall, Kyle Davies and Robert Reyes raised $3.5 million for various Trump and Clinton PAC’s, only they kept all but $19.00 for themselves. Indicted on multiple federal felony counts of fraud, conspiracy, and money laundering.
— LiberalNavySeal1 (@LeftyNavySeal) November 11, 2021
According to the indictment, Tunstall and Reyes then reportedly laundered more than $350,000 via a third-party vendor before funneling it into their own wallets and reinvesting some of it in new robocalls.
The indictment is not the first time Tunstall has been accused of running bogus political action committees.
It was reported in July that Tunstall had launched Campaign to Support the President in 2019 in addition to Support American Leaders, and that the pair of bogus PACs had gathered $3.4 million in donations. According to the study, the PACs paid Tunstall at least $738,000 from that sum of money. The Liberty Action Group PAC was queried by interested parties months after it was founded and asked about its questionable promises to assist Trump win the presidency in 2016.
Tunstall made his first appearance in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, while Reyes and Davies are scheduled to make their first appearances on Wednesday, according to federal officials.
Tunstall and Reyes may face up to 125 years in prison if convicted on all charges. Davies faces up to 65 years in jail.
According to The New York Times, former President Donald Trump and the Republican Party refunded nearly $13 million to donors in the first half of this year after using deceptive fundraising tactics during the 2020 election to trick donors into giving more money than they intended or believed they were.
Furthermore, The Times reported that between the 2020 election season and June 2021, Trump’s reelection campaign, the Republican National Committee, and its linked accounts repaid more than $135 million to donors.
According to the Times investigation earlier this year, Trump’s political operation automatically enrolled their web donors into recurring donations every week until Election Day.
The New York Times reports that if contributors wished to opt-out of the weekly donation, they would have to physically uncheck a box on digital donation forms. A second donation was held back from a pre-selected box. The disclaimer was made “increasingly vague” by the Trump team, according to the newspaper, by inserting it among bold and capitalized material.
According to the Times, the technique resulted in refund requests from supporters as well as a wave of credit card fraud accusations.
The Times then adds that the technique resulted in refund requests from supporters as well as a wave of credit card fraud accusations.
The New York Times reported that of the $12.8 million in refunds issued this year, $8.1 million came from Trump and the RNC’s combined account, $2.2 million from Trump’s reelection committee, and $2.5 million from the RNC, according to newly published records from the Federal Election Commission.
The New York Times previously reported that through WinRed, which processes internet donations for Republicans, Trump’s political organization and the RNC repaid $122 million, or more than 10% of what they raised in 2020.
President Joe Biden’s committees refunded more than 2% of the money they earned online last year through the Democratic donation-processing site ActBlue.
According to the New York Times, Republicans that use WinRed continue to use the prechecked option for online donations, including Trump’s political action committee Save America, whereas Democrats have decided to abandon the practice.
The Trump campaign has defended its online methods in the past. Last year, less than 1% of transactions — around 200,000 transactions — were exposed to credit card disputes, according to Jason Miller, a campaign spokesperson.
Miller did not respond to the Times’ questions concerning this year’s refunds.
The fundraising tactics of WinRed and ActBlue are being investigated by four Democratic state attorneys general from New York, Connecticut, Maryland, and Minnesota.