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Blythe man defrauded donors of more than $250,000 with fake Bernie Sanders, Beto O'Rourke websites, prosecutors say

Blythe man defrauded donors of more than $250,000 with fake Bernie Sanders, Beto O'Rourke websites, prosecutors say
An 80-year-old Blythe man was charged Tuesday with wire fraud for setting up fake political action committees to support, among others, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and pocketing more than $250,000 in contributions. (Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

An 80-year-old Blythe man was charged this week with wire fraud and aggravated identity theft after federal prosecutors say he set up fake political action committees and pocketed more than $250,000 in contributions that donors thought was going to various political candidates and causes.

John Pierre Dupont set up more than a dozen committees that claimed to be raising money for various campaigns, prosecutors said, including Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid and former Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s high-profile U.S. Senate race in Texas.

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But Dupont kept all the money and used it to pay his rent, settle parking and traffic tickets, and purchase a $25,300 Mercedes-Benz sedan, among other personal expenses, according to a complaint unsealed by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.

Dupont appeared in federal court in Arizona on Tuesday and posted $100,000 bail, according to a Department of Justice spokeswoman.

Dupont collected more than $140,000 from contributions collected through a website purporting to support Sanders, according to court documents. Some people paid online with a credit card while others mailed checks.

Dupont collected contributions from thousands of donors with websites that claimed to support Democrats running for the U.S. Senate as well as Andrew Gillum’s campaign for the Florida governorship, prosecutors said. One committee’s website said it was paying for efforts to aid immigrant families near the border.

“Our volunteer attorneys, doctors, nurses and social workers are working day and night to liberate these children,” read the website ImmigrantChildrenReunited.org, which has since been taken down. “Donations will go to help pay our volunteer attorneys’, doctors’, nurses’ and social workers’ costs and pay for transportation to unite immigrant families.”

Prosecutors say all of this was fraudulent.

“Thousands of donors believed their hard-earned money was being used to support the causes described in solicitations, but in reality, the scam PACs had no operations beyond the fundraising itself, and no funds were used to support candidates,” U.S. Atty. Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement.

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