By Kanishka Singh
– A federal grand jury indicted three men for operating two fraudulent political action committees during the 2016 U.S. election cycle and collecting about $3.5 million from unwitting contributors, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday.
The indictment alleges that Matthew Tunstall, Kyle Davies and Robert Reyes solicited contributions to two PACs by using robocalls and written solicitations implying that they supported 2016 presidential candidates.
The two political action committees were called Liberty Action Group PAC and Progressive Priorities PAC, the Justice Department said.
“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,” the Justice Department said.
Tunstall and Reyes were also alleged to have laundered more than $350,000 in illegal proceeds from the scheme through a third-party vendor to conceal the use of those funds for their own benefit.
The men were charged with conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to make a false statement to the Federal Election Commission (FEC), multiple counts of wire fraud, and multiple counts of money laundering, according to the Justice Department. Reuters could not contact their representatives for comment.
If convicted of all counts, Tunstall and Reyes both face a maximum total penalty of 125 years in prison and Davies faces a maximum total penalty of 65 years in prison, the Justice Department said on Wednesday.
(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Bengaluru; Ediing by Stephen Coates)