A scam PAC operator was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Monday after pleading guilty to wire fraud and money laundering for operating a scheme to collect more than $3 million from donors during the 2016 election.
Matthew Tunstall, 36, was one of three men who ran two political action committees during the 2016 campaign cycle that tricked unsuspecting donors into giving them money by using robocalls and written solicitations meant to imply they were supporting presidential candidates.
But the money raised in the name of supporting the 2016 presidential candidates – both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton – were actually used to enrich themselves and pay for more robocalls and radio advertisements, according to the Department of Justice and previous KFile reporting.
In Tunstall’s sentencing memo filed earlier this week, his lawyers asked that Tunstall serve 24 months of home confinement and three years of supervised release. Prosecutors asked for 188 to 235 months, or more than 15 years to 19-and-a-half years.
In a statement sent to CNN after publication, Tunstall’s attorney, Worth Carroll, said that the government is “going to spend considerable resources incarcerating Matt to send a message to stop future Matts – even though Congress knew how to fix our elections long before Matt’s prosecutions.”
“Today isn’t the day the Government proves that it’s cracking down on election fraud – that’ll be the day when its members quit pocketing dark and grey money and stop letting it influence our elections,” Carroll said.
KFile reported extensively on Tunstall and the PAC’s activities, first in 2016 at BuzzFeed and later in 2017 at CNN. A 2021 investigation of Tunstall revealed that he was living in Los Angeles under the assumed name of “Matte Nox” while operating two different scam PACs. Under the Nox alias, Tunstall flaunted a lavish lifestyle online as a wannabe influencer, frequently posting photos of luxury jewelry and accessories, his Porsche Panamera and partying at nightclubs with models.
Since the landmark Supreme Court ruling Citizens United in 2010, which allowed for corporations and special interest groups to engage in unlimited amounts of campaign spending, campaign spending has incubated a marketplace where billions of dollars can be spent on a single campaign cycle.
Campaign spending remains largely unfettered today, creating a system ripe for abuse for operators like Tunstall.
Federal prosecutions of scam PACs are rare: fewer than a handful of cases are prosecuted each year and only the most egregious ones are prosecuted, according to campaign experts who spoke with CNN.
This story has been updated with additional information.