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BusinessThe F.B.I. arrests a Pennsylvania man who impersonated Trump’s...

The F.B.I. arrests a Pennsylvania man who impersonated Trump’s relatives.

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Last year, a Pennsylvania man amassed thousands of followers on Twitter by impersonating relatives of former President Donald J. Trump. In November, he even duped Mr. Trump, who messaged the man “LOVE!” while thinking he was writing to one of his sisters.

The New York Times later identified the man as Josh Hall, a 21-year-old food-delivery driver and Trump supporter, and showed that he had used the accounts to collect thousands of dollars for a fake political group.

On Tuesday, federal authorities arrested Mr. Hall and charged him with fraud and identity theft.

Mr. Hall pretended to be members of the Trump family “to fraudulently induce hundreds of victims to donate to a political organization that did not exist, and then pocketed those funds for his own use,” Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said in a news release.

Credit…Josh Hall

Mr. Hall’s arrest is a rare instance of criminal charges filed against someone for creating fake accounts on social media. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social networks are rife with millions of fake accounts, many of which impersonate politicians, celebrities and soldiers to scam people out of money. But few of the people behind the fakes ever face consequences.

Mr. Hall attracted the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation after he posed as five members of Mr. Trump’s family on Twitter, amassing more than 160,000 followers on the site. Over a year, he pretended to be, among others, Robert Trump, the president’s brother; Barron Trump, the president’s teenage son; and Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House’s coronavirus coordinator at the time.

He used the accounts to direct people to donate to a political group called Gay Voices for Trump. Mr. Hall later told The Times that the group didn’t exist. He brought in more than $7,300. The Justice Department said on Tuesday that Mr. Hall had kept the money.

Mr. Hall appeared in federal court in Harrisburg, Pa., on Tuesday, the Justice Department said. He could face up to 22 years in prison, the department said.

Mr. Hall could not be immediately reached on Tuesday. He told The Times last year that his fake accounts were clear parodies and that anyone should have known that, including Mr. Trump, by reading a few of their typically juvenile posts.

“There was no nefarious intention behind it,” Mr. Hall said. “I was just trying to rally up MAGA supporters and have fun,” he added, referring to the abbreviation for Mr. Trump’s slogan, “Make America Great Again.”



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