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Brothers cheated donors out of $23M with fake PACs on subjects like pro-life, autism awareness, feds say

The New York Daily News - 5/18/2018

May 17--Two brothers from Arizona used bogus political action committees as their personal piggy banks, duping donors into thinking they were giving money to pro-life and right-wing efforts, prosecutors said Thursday.

William and Robert Tierney swindled small-dollar donors across the country out of more than $23 million through their "scam PACs," Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman said. The PACs, some of which were also supposedly dedicated to autism awareness, had names like "Tea Party National Campaign," "Republican victory," "Gun right" and the "Pro-Life Committee."

"These PACs were political action committees in name only -- they engaged in no advocacy campaigns, education efforts, or political operations, and donated less than 1% of the money they raised to candidates for office, all while personally enriching the defendants," Berman said.

The scheme started in 2014 and involved tens of thousands of donors who contributed to nine PACS. The contributions were almost entirely under $200, below the threshold that would require itemized disclosures to the Federal Election Commission.

The Tierneys allegedly attracted donors through solicitation calls and mailers. Advertisements said the money would go toward "coast to coast" education and advocacy campaigns that would work with local groups and organizations. The PACs claimed to be "investing every penny ... in the big races to come," prosecutors said.

Berman said the donations were funneled through shell companies, with some of the money used to cover operating expenses for the scheme. William Tierney also used a fake name, Bill Johnson, prosecutors charged.

"The potential for abuse in PAC fund-raising is significant and potentially widespread," Berman said, adding he believed the case was the first of its kind in the country.

Prosecutors were tipped off to the schemes in part through investigative journalism by Fusion and Politico.

Calls to the Tierneys' attorneys were not returned. Both men were arrested in Arizona.


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