Robert Reyes, Kyle Davies and Matthew Tunstall were indicted this week on charges that they posed as political operatives during the 2016 election to dupe donors out of millions of dollars, federal prosecutors announced.
Reyes, 38 and Tunstall, 34, were charged with wire fraud and money laundering, and are facing up to 125 years in federal prison, prosecutors said. Twenty-nine-year-old Davies was charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and could spend up to 65 years behind bars.
Feds Say Robert Reyes Founded Fake PACs
According to the federal indictment unsealed Tuesday, Robert Reyes, Kyle Davies and Matthew Tunstall are accused of creating two phony PACs, Liberty Action Group PAC and Progressive Priorities PAC.
Prosecutors said the men presented the organizations as being affiliated with then-candidate Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, when they were not.
“Between January 2016 and April 2017, the defendants obtained approximately $3.5 million from unwitting donors based on false and misleading representations and used those funds to enrich themselves and to pay for additional fraudulent advertisements soliciting donations,” Department of Justice officials wrote.
“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 reads.
According to prosecutors, most of the money raised was transferred back to the three men instead of being donated to political causes.
The indictment says that about $714,000 was wired into bank accounts linked with Robert Reyes, while $1.5 million was transferred to Matthew Tunstall, and $84,000 was traced to Kyle Davies’ bank account.
Phony PACs Acted Like Real Ones
Though the men allegedly didn’t spend their money like a PAC is legally obligated to, they solicited contributions using all the traditional avenues for political fundraisers.
According to the indictment, the fake Trump-affiliated PAC Liberty Action Group urged donors via robocall to ensure “this election isn’t stolen from the American people” by contributing cash.
To Democratic voters, the Progressive Priorities PAC told supporters that their donations would help ““first female president in U.S. history” win the election, the indictment alleges.
More gallingly, the robocalls occasionally used the real voices of Trump and Clinton to urge monetary donations in the run-up to the 2016 election, federal prosecutors believe.
On their websites, the PACs reportedly went to great lengths to appear legitimate, offering printed photos of the candidates for donors who gave more than $1,000 and “using the names of others” without their permission to bolster credibility, the indictment says.
Investigators also accused Reyes, Davies and Tunstall of forging signatures and lying to the Federal Election Commission when filing reports for their phony organizations.
Not the First Election Scam for Tunstall
Robert Reyes and Kyle Davies, potentially facing a combined 190 years of prison time, do not appear to have been in legal jeopardy before.
But their alleged co-conspirator Matthew Tunstall is no stranger to federal investigators. The 34-year-old was previously accused of operating two other fraudulent PACs, Support American Leaders and Campaign to Support the President.
Matthew Tunstall reportedly appeared in a federal court Tuesday to hear the charges. Robert Reyes and Kyle Davies were due before the judge on Wednesday.