Arizona men charged with operating scam PACs

Arizona men charged with operating scam PACs
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Two Arizona men were charged on Thursday for allegedly operating several fraudulent political action committees that prosecutors say defrauded donors out of more than $23 million. 

The men, William Tierney, 46, and Robert Tierney, 40, were arrested in Arizona and charged in New York City federal court with wire fraud conspiracy, mail fraud conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, prosecutors said

The defendants are expected to appear on Thursday afternoon in federal district court in Arizona. 

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According to court papers, the Tierneys "defrauded tens of thousands of donors to at least nine political action committees that they controlled, operated, and influenced," starting in 2014. 

Those so-called Scam PACs allegedly solicited money from donors under the pretense that the funds would support voter education and the political campaigns of candidates who supported various causes, such as autism awareness, law enforcement and opposition to abortion.

In reality, prosecutors said, less than 1 percent of the money raised by the PACs went to political contributions. The vast majority of the funds went to the Tierneys directly — totaling more than $3.5 million — or to expenditures for perpetuating the scheme, such as overhead costs and telemarketing.

Only about $109,000 of the donations were directed to political campaigns, according to prosecutors. 

Prosecutors allege that the scheme was perpetuated by a web of shell companies set up by the defendants and their co-conspirators that were used to disguise the operation. Those shell entities had names suggesting that they performed marketing, consulting or communications work related to issue-specific causes.

The two men also allegedly used aliases as part of the scheme, according to prosecutors. William Tierney often went by the name "Bill JohnsonWilliam (Bill) Leslie JohnsonBy opposing a sham impeachment, I upheld my oath of office A solemn impeachment day on Capitol Hill GOP lawmaker holds moment of silence on House floor for people who voted for Trump MORE" when meeting with officials at fundraising call centers, according to court papers.

Another fake name, "Emma Smith" — described as a "volunteer coordinator" for one of the PACs — was allegedly used in fundraising solicitations.

The two men could each face up to 20 years in prison for each of the charges. Another charge, conspiracy to engage in monetary transactions in property derived from specified unlawful activity, carries a maximum of 10 years in prison.