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Joe Raedle/Getty Donald Trump
A Pennsylvania man was arrested Tuesday and now faces federal fraud and identity theft charges after, prosecutors say, he impersonated family members of Donald Trump to dupe hundreds of the former president's supporters out of thousands of dollars.
The Justice Department said in a statement that Joshua Hall, 22, appeared in federal court Tuesday to face charges of wire fraud and aggravated identity theft in connection with an alleged social media scheme.
There's no attorney listed for Hall on the federal complaint against him, which alleges that he "defrauded hundreds of victims by making false representations" and then "used the funds raised for his own personal living expenses."
It was unclear Wednesday if he has entered a plea.
Hall gained widespread attention in November when Trump, 74, mistakenly retweeted a post from one of Hall's accounts believing it was actually his older sister, Elizabeth Trump Grau.
The fake tweet referenced Trump's baseless claims about his 2020 election loss, to which the president responded: "Thank you Elizabeth. LOVE!"
The New York Times soon after published an expansive report on Hall's impersonations of Trump family members and other public figures, including an interview with Hall himself.
"I was like shellshocked," Hall, a Pennsylvania-based delivery driver, told the Times about the moment Trump retweeted him.
"I'm a big Trump supporter, but I'm thinking, 'He's got to know that that's a parody,' " Hall told the newspaper. "How does he not know?"
Joe Raedle/Getty Images Donald Trump
The Times reported then that Hall created numerous fake accounts for Trump family members throughout 2020, including Trump's older sister, his late brother Robert Trump, and his teenage son, Barron Trump.
Together the accounts had gained more than 100,000 followers on Twitter, according to the Times - a number authorities referenced again this week.
While posing as the former president's brother Robert, who died in August, Hall promoted a fake organization called "Gay Voices for Trump" which received more than $7,000 via a GoFundMe, the paper reported.
In a statement on Tuesday, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said Hall "led hundreds of people to believe they were donating to an organization that didn't exist by pretending to be someone he wasn't, as alleged."
Hall faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted on the wire fraud charge and a mandatory two-year sentence on the identity theft charge, the Justice Department said.
According to the Times, Hall said he never withdrew the GoFundMe money, but a spokesperson for the website said their records indicate he did.
The FBI pointed to Hall's alleged actions while warning the public to carefully vet political fundraisers online.
"As we continue to investigate fraud in all its many forms, we urge the public to remain aware of the prevalence of online scams and exercise due diligence when making donations online," Sweeney Jr. said.