Right after his election loss last November, then-President Donald Trump posted an article from a conservative website that said his sister, Elizabeth Trump Grau, had just joined Twitter to publicly back her brother’s fight to overturn the vote. “Thank you Elizabeth,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “LOVE!”
Problem is, the Twitter account that gave rise to the article wasn’t his sister’s. It was a fake profile run by a 21-year-old food-delivery driver in Mechanicsburg, Pa. That man, Josh Hall, today was arrested in Pennsylvania and is expected to appear before a federal judge there on the wire fraud and identity theft charges filed in New York.
Beginning in February 2020, Hall posed as political figures and their families on Twitter, including five of Trump’s relatives. He had pretended to be Robert Trump, the twice-impeached former president’s brother; Barron Trump, his then-14-year-old son; and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator. All together, the accounts amassed more than 160,000 followers.
Hall allegedly raised thousands of dollars using Trump family identities on his platforms – claiming those relatives were helping him run the fundraising operation.
The U.S. Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York said Hall used the money he raised for his own personal spending. “Central to the scheme was the impersonation by Joshua Hall … of members of the President’s family,” prosecutors said in court papers filed Tuesday.
One of the false posts read, “Josh is an amazing patriot who is doing tremendous things for our great country. He has my COMPLETE AND TOTAL ENDORSEMENT”, the FBI said.
The FBI said there were hundreds of victims ripped off in the scheme in the scam that lasted for more than a year. Twitter has taken down Hall’s account, which was exposed by the New York Times as being fake back in December 2020. “There was no nefarious intention behind it,” Hall told the Times then. “I was just trying to rally up MAGA supporters and have fun.”