An 82-year-old career criminal from California has pleaded guilty to running phony political action committees for candidates including Bernie Sanders and Beto O’Rourke and pocketing money from donors, prosecutors said.
John Pierre Dupont had been charged with defrauding thousands of donors between 2015 and 2019 through sham websites he ran that purported to be raising funds on behalf of several presidential, senate and gubernatorial candidates, federal prosecutors said. Dupont even went so far as to send thank you notes to donors in the name of some of the candidates he was pretending to represent, they said.
‘John Pierre Dupont took advantage of thousands of vulnerable individual donors who believed they were contributing to causes they believed in.‘
Dupont ultimately raked in more than $250,000 which he used to finance his own lifestyle — including paying his rent and other bills and buying a Mercedes Benz, according to court papers. None of the money ever went to any campaign, and none of the candidates were aware of what Dupont was up to, prosecutors said.
“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,” said Audrey Strauss, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York.
Dupont was jailed in the 1980s for defrauding investors
Authorities say Dupont had legally changed his name in 2012 from John Gary Rinaldo, an identity he had used while perpetrating numerous financial scams in the 1980s and 1990s in southern California.
In 1985, he was jailed for defrauding investors in a once highly-successful home mortgage firm he ran in Orange County that collapsed in a housing bust, according to a 1992 profile in the Los Angeles Times.
After being released, he was later charged with ripping off inexperienced investors in a high-risk scheme. He was also charged with trying to take out a $350,000 mortgage on a home he didn’t own, and using the money to buy gold coins, according to the profile. When he was arrested, he was driving a stolen red Mercedes, police said.
Dupont later escaped from a low-security facility he’d been transferred to after testifying against a former cellmate in a Mafia-related, murder-for-hire plot. He went on the lam for five years before being caught again and was jailed until 1999, according to prison records.
In the phony political fundraising case, Dupont was released on $100,000 bond following his arrest in 2019, but failed to appear in court in New York later that month and went on the lam again for several months. He was eventually taken into custody in Oklahoma where he’d been hiding, after cops spotted him running a red light, police said.
While awaiting trial in New York, his attorney said Dupont had been residing in a nursing home and had been in increasingly bad health. He has since been remanded to federal custody and is due to be sentenced on Oct. 21.
Dupont’s attorney didn’t return a message seeking comment.