82-year-old Blythe man pleads guilty to charges he received $250,000 from phony PACs
'John Pierre Dupont took advantage of thousands of vulnerable individual donors who believed they were contributing to causes they believed in," says a U.S. attorney
An 82-year-old Blythe man pleaded guilty this week in a New York federal court to defrauding thousands of donors out of more than $250,000 given to phony political action committees purported to be associated with the 2016 presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders and those of Democratic Party candidates.
John Pierre Dupont, who was convicted of wire fraud and identity theft, swindled donors in a scheme that ran from 2015 to 2019, according to a complaint filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.
None of the money donated to the phony PACs was spent on political candidates, and Dupont failed to report the contributions, as required, in filings with the Federal Election Commission.
Instead, Dupont used the funds to purchase a Mercedes-Benz sedan, pay credit cards bills and obtain cash withdrawals, according to prosecutors. He is scheduled to be sentenced Oct. 21 by U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman.
“In impersonating campaigns and candidates to raise money for fake political action committees, John Pierre Dupont took advantage of thousands of vulnerable individual donors who believed they were contributing to causes they believed in,” U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said in a statement. “Instead, hundreds of thousands of dollars that were intended to be legitimate donations were instead stolen by the defendant for his own personal enrichment. Dupont has admitted to his scheme and now faces a significant term of incarceration.”
Dupont operated at least 15 websites purported to be PACs that supported an array of Democratic Party candidates, according to investigators.
In addition to Sanders, the PACs claimed to support Andrew Gillum, who ran for governor of Florida in 2018 and Robert Francis “Beto” O’Rourke, a Texas congressman who sought a U.S. Senate seat also in 2018.
Another website operated by Dupont claimed that donations to the Foundation for Sanity in Politics PAC would “go to help pay our volunteer attorneys’, doctors’, nurses’ and social workers’ costs and pay for transportation to unite immigrant families,” according to the criminal complaint
In reality, the PAC had no volunteers or staff, and dedicated no funds to reunite immigrant families.
Dupont took elaborate steps to evade prosecution after he was indicted in March 2019 and subsequently arrested in Arizona, where he was required to post $100,000 bail .
“He then, I think in particularly spry fashion, managed to evade the government after jumping bail for approximately seven months,” Berman said during a February 2020 hearing held to discuss with attorneys why Dupont couldn’t be in court due to health problems and remained under guard by U.S. marshals at a hospital in Brooklyn, New York.
“He took a number of steps that were fairly sophisticated. He got a new phone number. He traded in his money for gold. He drove to different areas. He rented a U-Haul. Told the U-Haul he would be returning it in Seattle and then some weeks later dumped it on the roadside in Dallas. He was pretty cognitively fit during that time and certainly moving about.”
Dupont was eventually captured in Oklahoma. Prosecutors did not respond to a phone call Friday regarding his current whereabouts.