A California man pleaded guilty today in the Western District of Texas to participating in a scheme to solicit millions of dollars in contributions to two political action committees (PACs) based on false and misleading representations that the funds would be used to support presidential candidates during and after the 2016 election cycle.
According to court documents, from 2016 through at least April 2017, Matthew Nelson Tunstall, 35, of Los Angeles, together with co-conspirators, operated two PACs – Liberty Action Group PAC and Progressive Priorities PAC – which solicited contributions from the public via robocalls and television, radio, and internet advertisements, among other means. The two PACs stated that the contributions would be used to support the presidential nominees of the two major political parties, respectively. Instead, Tunstall and his co-conspirators used the funds to enrich themselves and to fund additional fraudulent solicitations. Specifically, Tunstall admitted that the two PACs raised approximately $3.9 million in contributions during the 2016 election cycle and subsequent months. Additionally, to conceal the origin and nature of the proceeds of the fraudulent scheme, Tunstall and his co-conspirators instructed a third-party vendor to withdraw from the two PACs approximately $353,000 in excess of the amount owed to the vendor for services rendered, then deposit the excess payments into accounts held by shell companies that they controlled.
Tunstall pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and to cause the PACs to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission and one count of money laundering. He faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Robert Reyes and Kyle Davies – co-conspirators who previously pleaded guilty for their involvement in the fraudulent political solicitation scheme – will be sentenced at a later date.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite, Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Oliver E. Rich, Jr. of the FBI San Antonio Field Office made the announcement.
The FBI San Antonio Field Office, Austin Resident Agency investigated the case.
Trial Attorneys Michael N. Lang and Celia Choy of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section (PIN) are prosecuting the case. Former PIN Trial Attorney Rebecca Schuman provided significant assistance.