A trio of alleged fraudsters who used robocalls to fool unwitting donors into turning over cash under the pretense of a political cause have been indicted by a federal grand jury over their alleged involvement in a scam PAC scheme during the 2016 presidential election.
According to an indictment unsealed Tuesday, 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 based on the lie that they backed or were affiliated with then-presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.
The Daily Beast previously reported that Support American Leaders, another scam Trump PAC established in 2018 by Tunstall, bagged a taxpayer-backed loan through the Paycheck Protection Program intended to hoist small businesses out of the pandemic-fueled recession.
The three men are facing a conspiracy charge to commit wire fraud and to make a false statement to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), and have been slapped with multiple counts of wire fraud. Tunstall and Reyes also face multiple counts of money laundering.
An FBI investigation revealed that between January 2016 and April 2017, the trio raked in roughly $3.5 million from donors through scripted robocalls that, according to the indictment, used “false and misleading representations” to scrape 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 transferred to Tunstall’s personal and business bank accounts. Roughly $714,000 was transferred to Reyes’ accounts and about $84,000 was funneled into accounts held by Davies, according to the indictment.
The Liberty Action Group PAC, which falsely claimed an affiliation with Trump, offered a plea four years ahead of its time, calling on donors to contribute cash to ensure “this election isn’t STOLEN from the American people,” according to a copy of one robocall obtained by investigators. A separate script for Progressive Priorities pressed donors to help elect the “first female president in U.S. history,” the indictment states.
The robocalls also used audio clips of Trump and Clinton and asked for “emergency” donations in exchange for a sticker for small-dollar amounts or an “exclusive” signed photo of the candidate that was “suitable for framing,” for donations of $1,000 or more.
The men also operated websites for both PACs that made them look legitimate and “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,” the indictment states.
Tunstall and Reyes then allegedly laundered more than $350,000 through a third-party vendor before funneling it into their own pockets and reinvesting some of it into additional robocalls, the indictment states.
The indictment isn’t the first time Tunstall has been accused of operating fraudulent PACs.
In July, CNN reported that in addition to Support American Leaders, Tunstall had established Campaign to Support the President in 2019 and that the pair of fraudulent PACs jointly amassed $3.4 million in contributions. From that pot of cash, the PACs had paid Tunstall at least $738,000, according to the report. BuzzFeed News also reported on the Liberty Action Group PAC months after its launch and its dubious claims to help elect Trump in 2016.
Tunstall made an initial appearance in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, and Reyes and Davies are set for their first appearances on Wednesday, federal authorities said.
If convicted on all counts, Tunstall and Reyes could face a maximum of 125 years behind bars. Davies could be imprisoned for up to 65 years.